Here's the Image From Obama's Trip to the Philippines That He Doesn't Want You to See


The news: We all have embarrassing travel photos, but President Barack Obama's recent trip to the Philippines produced some especially memorable gems:

Image Credit: AP

That's the reception he got when he visited Manila's presidential palace on Monday. Some 800 activists gathered to protest his signing of a new agreement that grants U.S. forces comprehensive access to Filipino military bases.

Obama's welcome party included a massive effigy of him riding a chariot pulled by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who was depicted as a dog. Both were promptly set ablaze as protesters chanted: "No-bama, no bases, no war!"

Image Credit: AP

Wow. VICE News reports that many Filipinos view this 10-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as Obama's "attempt to rekindle U.S. imperialistic control in Asia." And they might not be far off. Until 1992, U.S. forces had maintained an almost uninterrupted military presence in the country for nearly 100 years.

"US intervention and aggression in the Philippines has been going on for more than a century now," protester Axel Pinpin told VICE. "It has already cost hundreds of thousands of Filipino lives. The resistance and struggle for national sovereignty has never been more just and it will continue to intensify."

Philippines Congressman Neri Colmenares added in the Inquirer: "This [agreement] will practically bring back US military bases in the Philippines without a treaty, without rent and without limits as the American may use all Philippine military facilities — an arrangement worse than the Bases Treaty rejected by the Philippine Senate in September 1991."

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The Philippines has long suffered under the yoke of American imperialism. When the U.S. government bought the country from Spain for $20 million in 1898, the Southeast Asian nation had already declared its independence. However, both the U.S. and Spain refused to acknowledge its sovereignty, prompting the Philippine-American War that lasted from 1899 to 1902 and claimed "an estimated 34,000 to 220,000 Filipino lives."

For the next 44 years, Filipinos were forced to live under a U.S. "territorial government" despite their constant pleas that their independence be recognized. They supported the U.S. during World War I and were promised a gradual transition to full independence between 1935 and 1946 that was promptly interrupted by Japanese invasion and occupation during World War II.

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By the end of that war, over a million Filipinos had been killed. Only then did the U.S. sign the 1946 Treaty of Manila, granting the Philippines its independence and relinquishing U.S. sovereignty.

But American forces didn't leave for an extended period until 1992. To complicate matters, Al Jazeera reports that they left behind a "legacy of toxic waste," sickness and pollution caused by improperly treated chemicals they "refused to clean up" when they left.

Image Credit: AP

Now guess who's back. You can imagine why so many Filipinos aren't thrilled by this particular guest's return. As if that weren't enough, the Beijing government also views the agreement as a "disturbing" and hostile attempt by Obama to "contain" Chinese influence in the region.

The president denies the allegations, but for Filipino protesters, that's beside the point. "The relationship between the Government ... of the Philippines and the United States of America has long been that of between a master and a very obedient lackey," Pinpin told VICE. "U.S. imperialism is one of the three main problems in the country, together with feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism."

As far as whether there are benefits for Filipinos, Pinpin is adamant: "The relationship is not favorable to the Filipino people at all."

So what's next? If history is any indicator, Filipinos could once again be getting the short end of the imperial stick. And in perhaps the least shocking statement ever, the U.S. government expects the move to be mutually "beneficial." Only time will tell.