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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mamasapano: Symptom of a bigger reality



AS the impact of the Mamasapano Massacre reverberates through the halls of power in Malacañang, it gives us a glimpse of the depths of corruption and manipulation, as well as foreign intervention, that is happening in our country today. As the government’s official story unravels due to the sustained interest of the people, we find that the issue goes beyond Mamasapano. The incident itself is symptomatic of the problems that plague our country.
We see in Mamasapano the direct foreign intervention in our political and economic activities as reports of US troops directing a supposed civilian police action surface in media. The presence of foreign troops in the country, despite clear constitutional limits, is not accidental nor is it just for the arrest of Zulkifli bin hir, alias Marwan.
The presence of US troops in the country is a product of the long running violation of our national sovereignty under the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and lately the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which was signed by President Aquino. These agreements make it possible to bring back long term operations of US troops in the country thus making our whole territory one big US base.
We also see in Mamasapano the long term interest of the elite and foreigners in exploiting our natural resources especially those found in the Liguasan marsh. A Wikileaks report of a US embassy cable in 2006 has noted that the 288,000 hectare Liguasan Marsh that is shared by the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat is a veritable treasure trove of natural gas and oil deposits. The Wikileaks report cites the interest of the US in Mindanao and their efforts to reduce the tension in the area which requires “much work on the ground — and significant quantities of well designed foreign assistance.”
The same US embassy cable notes that “[i]nterest [in Mindanao] has grown significantly since a December 2004 decision by the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Mining Act. Companies that are up to 100 per cent foreign owned may now pursue investments in large-scale exploration and development of minerals, oil, and gas.”
The upcoming 20th anniversary of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act on March 3 is a good time to reflect on the opening up of our whole country, not just Mindanao, to foreign plunder which robs us of mineral resources that is critical to national development.
Going beyond Mamasapano, the reasons that we continue to be underdeveloped as a country is also not an accident. Our denationalization is a direct result of the subscription of the current government, as well as the past ones, to deregulation, privatization and other neoliberal policies. Despite the large ticket funding for some research and development activities such as Project Noah and theAutomated Guideway Transit System, the economic policies of the current administration remains decoupled from the capacity of our local talent and skill to contribute to national industrialization. We remain dependent on importing much of our goods necessary for economic activity and rely on OFW remittances and the export of raw materials and agricultural products for income. The lack of an industrial policy to shore up our domestic industries to address local needs perpetuates this dire situation.
As an example, the DOTC chose to increase MRT and LRT rates in order to sell and privatize these train lines instead of relying on locally built solutions. The government can in fact do this development on its own if it allocates the presidential pork in the 2015 budget such as the P501 Billion special purpose fund and expand mass transit lines up to eight times the winning bid of the LRT line 1 extension. To put it in terms of kilometers of train lines, this P501 Billion can build 85 kilometers more of the LRT instead of letting private companies enjoy the long term profits of a mass transit solution.
The same is true for other utilities such as power and water. The government chose to privatize these basic utilities and abandon its duty to provide us with reliable and accessible infrastructure for our daily needs. With electricity for example, we are at the mercy of power firms, more than half of them owned by only three companies. The same is true for fuel, as we have seen that prices are still high despite a big drop in imported fuel costs.
Mamasapano is just a symptom of the bigger reality.There are many more issues that we can trace to government’s wrong policies and blind obedience to foreign interests. It is imperative for all of us to demand truth and accountability from those who are in power not just in the case of Mamasapano but inseeking immediate economic relief and wanting long term national development for all.

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