BY VANNESSA HEARMAN
MELBOURNE Filipino parliamentarian Satur Ocampo from the Bayan Muna (People's First) party described the US war on the Philippines at a public meeting held at Trades Hall on June 30.
Ocampo is one of three Bayan Muna members in the Philippines Congress. The party was formed in 1999 on a platform of "pushing the people's agenda for basic reforms" and against the "anti-people" policies of the main Filipino parties.
Ocampo's visit to Australia was hosted by the Philippines Caucus for Peace, Gabriela, Migrante Melbourne and Australia Asia Worker Links.
"After September 11, 2001, the US explicitly stated that the Philippines represented 'the second front in the War on Terror'. US military presence in the Philippines has ostensibly focused on getting rid of Abu Sayyaf, one of the pro-independence groups in the liberation struggle of the Moro people", Ocampo told the public meeting.
He said Philippines President Gloria Arroyo had agreed to negotiations to settle the Moro conflict in June 2001. However, this changed after 9/11. "From February to September last year, there were military counter-insurgency operations going on, in which US personnel were involved as 'advisers'."
Ocampo said the Arroyo government's labelling of Moro independence organisations and the Communist Party-led New People's Army as "terrorist groups" was "unhelpful" in furthering peace negotiations.
Ocampo warned that the US is set to increase its direct military presence in Asia under the cover of fighting "terrorism".
Neri Colmenares from the Philippines Caucus for Peace also addressed the meeting. He said that it was important for Australians to demand to know the contents of the "anti-terror treaty" Prime Minister John Howard was due to sign in the Philippines this month.
Colmenares also said it was vital to link various struggles in the region, from Aceh to the Philippines, "to have a rights-based approach as a movement, not to be divided [by governments] into particular countries or peoples".
From Green Left Weekly, July 9, 2003.
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