$1-B Australian aid linked to two key issues PDF Print E-mail
Written by Partido Lakas ng Masa   
Thursday, 24 November 2011 14:10

[This was published in the Letter to the Editor, Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 24, 2011]


During his press conference upon his return from the Apec meeting in Honolulu, President Aquino thanked Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard for the $1 billion aid provided by the Australian government to “help the recent flood and typhoon victims.”


Before we applaud the Australian government and its prime minister for their apparent generosity, let us consider Australia’s national interests that are involved in the Philippines. There are two key issues that stand out.


Firstly, there’s the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SoVFA) with Australia, somewhat secretly sealed by the Philippine government in Canberra on May 31, 2007.


While the US-RP VFA has been much discussed in the media, the RP-Australia SoVFA has not been given much attention, although it contains similar provisions that violate the country’s Constitution and national sovereignty.


This includes the rather hazy provisions of Article 11 (7) on jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed by Australian troops, which states that the “custody of any member of the visiting force, if he or she is in the hands of the (Philippines), shall remain with the (Philippines).”


This provision could also read to mean that if an Australian soldier accused of a crime on Philippine soil, such as rape, is in the custody of the Australians, the Philippines will not be able to get custody.


The RP-Australia SoVFA has yet to be endorsed by the Philippine government. Could a $1-billion aid package be an inducement? You can bet “your bottom Aussie dollar” that it is.

Secondly, Gillard gained some notoriety for ousting then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with the support of Australian mining company magnates opposed to Rudd’s rather mild mining tax.


Gillard promised to junk plans to tax the mining company’s super profits, winning the magnates’ support in the Labor Party leadership battle for the prime minister’s position.


This brings us to Australian mining company interests in the Philippines. There are at least 11 companies in the Philippines with licenses to operate and explore, including OceanaGold, Xstrata, Indophil, Central Gold Asia, Pelican Resources and Mindoro Resources Limited.


Earlier this year, the Commission on Human Rights released a statement confirming the community charges that OceanaGold had committed gross violations of human rights against the indigenous people of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, including illegal and violent demolition of their homes.


A large mine owned by Xstrata Copper and Indophil Resources will also be opened in Mindanao region which is said to have the largest underdeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia. However, the local government of South Cotabato banned open pit mining in the province and the mining company is now pressuring the national government and the local officials to lift the ban.


Gillard’s “close relationship” with the Australian mining industry gives us much cause for concern about these and other Australian government interests tied to a hefty aid package of $1 billion.




—REI MELENCIO, International Department, Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM),

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Last Updated on Thursday, 24 November 2011 14:29



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