Almost 28 years ago, in September 1991, 11 senators rose on the Senate floor to warn of war, hunger, pestilence, and disease if the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Security between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America was rejected. Here are excerpts of their grim predictions:
Heherson Alvarez: I have considered rejection of the Treaty hard and long, but each time, I cannot tear from my mind the thought that some 60,000 Filipinos will lose their jobs. I hear their voices crying ‘If you vote NO, you have fired us.’ Can we in conscience deprive 60,000 Filipinos of their jobs and snatch from 60,000 families and many more families their source of living?
Edgardo Angara: In accordance with the constitutional mandate to expand productivity as the key to raising the quality of life for all, our country cultivates foreign markets for its products. Our country, therefore, has an identifiable interest in maintaining its access to those markets. A huge volume of the international trade in goods in this part of the globe traverses sealanes adjacent to the Philippines, and some pass directly through Philippine waters. As a superpower, the United States is in the best position to keep those routes accessible for free use by everyone.
Neptali Gonzales: I only wish to add that in spite of all its flaws, whether perceived or real, on the balance, the treaty is beneficial to the country.
Ernesto Herrera: If this Treaty is not ratified, the immediate consequence will be to deal to the remaining base workers and to the people of Central Luzon, on top of the volcanic devastation, a second wave of destruction, no longer an act of God but as a man-made calamity, inflicted by the very hands that will destroy this Treaty on the floor of this august body.
Jose Lina: I vote for the Treaty because I cannot in conscience be blind and oblivious to the plight of our less fortunate countrymen. In the fringes of Mt. Pinatubo alone, over a million people have lost their livelihood, their homes and their future buried under tons of ashes, swept by rampaging lahar. We cannot be deaf to the cries of 651,000 people who had become jobless.
John Osmeña: I disagree with the suggestion that the non-ratification of the Treaty and the pullout of U.S. facilities will not weaken our government and that it will not facilitate the victory of communist insurgency. They will need P10 billion in additional appropriation from this government in order to replace the loss if the Treaty is not ratified.
Vicente Paterno: Our country cannot afford more economic dislocations at this time. Mt. Pinatubo’s lahar will continue to afflict Central Luzon and hobble economic growth probably for the next three years. Budget deficits are alarming. Inflation stalks the land. Unemployment stands at 14.5 percent; four million people are out of work. Non-ratification aggravates these problems.
Santanina Rasul: The ravages of Mt. Pinatubo are continuing, with no end in sight. Our requirements to resettle the victims and to reconstruct the destroyed areas are estimated to be over ten billion pesos. This is only the latest ordeal of an economy struggling for survival, burdened by a succession of natural and man-made disasters. As a consequence, we have whole towns and barangays destroyed. Hundreds are homeless and hungry.
Alberto Romulo: This Treaty is flawed and imperfect. But to reject the Treaty outright, today, when we are unprepared and in crisis and thereby cause to be cast out into the streets thousands of workers with families and children without work and without hope of getting work is to me unnecessarily heartless and exceedingly cruel, callous, and uncaring.
Leticia Ramos Shahani: At present, we are facing other overwhelming undertakings — organizing the coming elections, planning to counter the ravages of Mt. Pinatubo. I am informed that in the near future, my own province, Pangasinan, will not be spared of the destruction of lahar. The ratification of the Treaty would have provided the time, the financial assistance and the stability to help our long-suffering country get ready to face the twenty-first century from a position of national strength and self-confidence, without the presence of foreign troops.
Mamintal Tamano: With American help and our resiliency as a people, the Pinatubo victims in Central Luzon can be saved and redeemed. Without that help, many more will perish from hunger, malnutrition, and disease.
Because 12 other senators — Agapito Aquino, Juan Ponce Enrile, Joseph Estrada, Teofisto Guingona, Sotero Laurel, Ernesto Maceda, Orlando Mercado, Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., Rene Saguisag, Jovito Salonga, Wigberto Tanada, and Victor Ziga — wanted no less than a truly free Philippines and had greater faith in the Filipino’s ability, wisdom, and resiliency, the Treaty was rejected.
In preparation for the departure of the US Air Force from Clark Air Base and the US Navy from Subic Bay, the Philippine Congress passed in March 1992 Republic Act 7227, known as the Bases Conversion and Development Act. RA 7227 created the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to transform the former military bases into economic centers of growth.
Both economic zones became catchment basins of investments flowing from local and foreign sources. According to a special report in last Saturday’s Philippine Daily Inquirer, registered locators in Clark as of 2016 numbered 895, creating 93,467 jobs. Gross revenue that year was P1.64 billion and cash dividends remitted to the national government was P700 million. There are now 1,546 companies operating in Subic, providing 134,000 jobs. Total revenue in 2017 was P3 billion.
“Pounding swords to make plowshares,” invoked the Prophet Isaiah for the reign of peace and prosperity. The historical swords of war of the former US military bases have been pounded into plowshares with which to farm business and industrial opportunities in Angeles City and Subic.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a member of Manindigan! a cause-oriented group of businessmen, professionals, and academics.