Asia and U.S. Foreign and National
by Doug Bereuter, Chairman,
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
INORTHEAST ASIA PEACE AND SECURITY NETWORK
***** SPECIAL REPORT *****
The following is the complete text of a speech by US Representative Doug Bereuter,
Republican-Nebraska, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the House
International Relations Committee. Bereuter discussed US policy and interests in Asia,
including the alliances with Japan and the ROK, and potential challenges from the DPRK,
the PRC, Indonesia, India, and Pakistan.
Asia and U.S. Foreign and National Security Policy
Doug Bereuter, Chairman,
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
February 2, 2000
Good Afternoon. The topic Lee Hamilton and Bob Hathaway asked me to speak on, "Asia
in U.S. Foreign and National Security Policy in the Next Millennium" certainly
constitutes a daunting task. However, I will take a modest stab at it in the limited time
we have here today, highlighting just a few areas: The solid foundation we have through
our alliances with Japan, Australia and Korea, and what I see as the principal challenges
facing us in North Korea, China, Indonesia, India and Pakistan.
I see the Asia-Pacific region, with over one-half of the world's population, as one in
which we, as Americans, undoubtedly will face many new challenges. Permit me, for the
record, first state what should be obvious to most American and Asian observers: the
United States plays a very important and positive role in the overall security of east and
southeast Asia -- and in certain other parts of Asia. Our presence is welcomed as a
stabilizing and relatively benign influence in the region by virtually all the Asian
nations in the region, including, I believe, at this state, by China. In fact, perhaps the
only country in Asia that does not welcome America's interest and commitment to the region
is North Korea. But for the United States to continue to play an important role in Asia,
we must to some degree rely upon on -- and further strengthen -- the stable alliances and
friendships we have in the area.
The most important of these alliances is with Japan. Our relationship has grown strong and
rather comprehensive. Looking at the economic relationship, too, for example, in one area,
namely trade, Japan ranks third only to Canada and Mexico as the largest single-country
market for U.S. exports. Indeed, 20% of all U.S. agricultural exports go to Japan, meaning
that Japan is a larger agricultural export market than the 15-countries of the European
Union. Japan is also one of the largest sources of
foreign portfolio capital and of foreign direct investment in the U.S. Likewise, the
United States is the largest source of foreign portfolio capital and direct investment in
In terms of national security cooperation, I would say that our relationship with Japan is
excellent and even stronger than it was a few years ago. One of the most important matters
related to Asian security is something that has almost totally escaped public attention in
the United States -- the successful renegotiation of the "Defense Cooperation
Guidelines." This agreement clarifies and expands Japan's role in helping maintain
peace and security in Northeast Asia. It sets forth in sufficient detail what we can
expect from Japan if fighting erupts on the Korean peninsula. The Guidelines chart a
course for a Japan which is much more confident and secure about its own future.
Today, it is impossible to overstate Japan's importance to the U.S. in Asia. Japan is host
to about half of the 100,000 uniformed personnel that the United States maintains in Asia
and the Western Pacific. Yokosuka (pronounced as "Yokuska" by Americans), Japan,
is the only overseas "homeport" for a U.S. aircraft carrier task force. With the
recent agreement to move the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa to a less
populated part of the island, this growing irritant in local relations now, it would seem,
is being addressed -- at least on an interim period of some duration. In terms of export
controls and arms sales, Japan has the same status with the U.S. as that which we have
with our NATO allies. Now, too, Japan has decided to invest and participate in the U.S.
theater missile defense program, a decision that was no doubt prompted by North Korea's
Given this crucial and powerful U.S.-Japan relationship, I believe that, unfortunately,
Japan has not received the attention it deserves from the Clinton Administration. This is
probably best exemplified by President Clinton's highly publicized June 1998 visit to
China which he made without the customary and expected stop in Japan. This was commonly
perceived as a snub in Japan. At present, our relationship continues to be marked by a
sense of drift. Even though Japan is, indeed, our most important ally in Asia, the U.S.
strategic dialogue with Tokyo lately has been all too limited. The appearance -- certainly
to influential Japanese -- is that the Clinton Administration has no clear
vision of what role it really wants Japan to play in Asia and world affairs. Consultations
tend to be pro-forma and meetings scripted. Current U.S. decision-makers consequently have
a poor understanding of what Japan's leaders are genuinely thinking, making it all the
more difficult to interpret security and economic decisions in Tokyo. However, I believe
that, overall, this appearance of indifference is both temporary and unintentional. With
the proper attention by the Administration, and with obvious support from the Congress, I
believe that our bilateral relations on all fronts (defense, political, economic) will and
must continue to be strengthened, even though trade conflicts may grab the headlines from
time to time.
The other very important strategic ally for America in Asia is the country in the region
with which we have our deepest friendship -- Australia. Given that "our cousins Down
Under" do not have the same constitutional constraints as Japan regarding the
deployment abroad of military forces, Australia has unfailingly joined the U.S. in
protecting our mutual national security interests around the globe, including combat in
Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. Just as importantly, Australia, unlike some of our
European NATO allies, has responsibly taken the initiative to provide stability and
security in its own neighborhood. This is best exemplified by Australia's primary
leadership role with the INTERFET force in East Timor.
I envision a strengthening of both Australia's regional role and US-Australian relations
in the years to come. Our alliance with Australia and, in reality with its people, does
not always elicit much attention, but it is one of America's crucial strategic partners.
Indeed, there are things that Australia can do to promote American interests and our
mutual interests that the U.S. cannot do for itself. Some are obvious; others are best
left undescribed. We should pay more attention to this friendship with the Australians and
do more to show our appreciation of this special relationship.
A third strong pillar of support for U.S. national security interests in Asia remains the
Republic of Korea. Forged in blood during the Korean War, our special relationship has
gradually evolved from that of American guardianship to one that today reflects a
relatively more balanced defense alliance. In fact, given the highly unpredictable and
seemingly reckless nature of the xenophobic regime in Pyongyang, I continue to rank the
Korean Peninsula as the most dangerous tinderbox on earth -- yes, equal to the Middle
East. Working closely and cooperatively with South Korea and Japan, we need to do a better
job of lessening North Korea's threat without succumbing, as we are doing increasingly, to
Pyongyang's brazen foreign aid extortion schemes.
None of us, I think, can accurately predict what North Korea will do in the future.
However, it probably is safe to predict that future DPRK-precipitated confrontations and
crises are nearly inevitable. Thus, we should err on the side of caution by treating North
Korea's advances with appropriate skepticism and by sending Pyongyang frequent and
consistently strong and unambiguous messages about our commitment to South Korea's
security and peace on the peninsula.
Former Secretary of Defense William Perry was appointed by the President to make policy
recommendations regarding North Korea. As you probably know, he proposed a two-pronged
approach. The first prong would be engagement. If the DPRK chooses this route, it could
expect increased trade and the gradual elimination of sanctions. If, however, Pyongyang
chooses the path of
confrontation, Dr. Perry recommends that North Korea be met with firmness, resolve, and
increased military strength.
I believe that Secretary Perry has once again performed admirable service to the nation,
and that his basic policy recommendation is sound. I am, however, somewhat concerned that
this Administration is so committed to its policy of engagement that few types of DPRK
provocations would be deemed sufficiently odious to cause the Administration to conclude
it must take the second path. If, for example, the North were to resume its flight testing
of ballistic missiles, I believe the Congress would overwhelmingly interpret this as a
rejection of engagement. Only time will tell whether the Administration would agree.
You may be aware that I was part of a Speaker-designated Republican task force that
examined the threat posed by North Korea. The report concluded that the DPRK's
conventional military capability has declined in recent years but that significant
evidence exists to strongly suggest that an undeclared nuclear weapons development program
continues. I believe that intuitively most sophisticated American observers of North Korea
acknowledge that probability. In addition, North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities
have increased markedly, with the initial testing of the three-stage Taepo Dong missile.
Because North Korea has historically not conducted extensive testing like we do before
weapons deployment and because the DPRK is perhaps the most unconstrained proliferator in
the world, this poses a security threat that extends far beyond Northeast Asia. While the
task force did not offer specific policy recommendations before adjourning the first
session of the 106th Congress, despite the desire of certain Members to do so, I believe
you can anticipate legislative efforts in the coming year -- soon. The chilling suspicion
that crosses the mind is that the North Koreans are only stringing us along -- buying time
-- until they are able to deploy these Taepo Dong missiles tipped with weapons of mass
destruction which can threaten not only South Korea, of course, but also all of Japan and
even parts of the United States.
Ranked right after the very real and dangerous security threat posed by North Korea, I
believe that the greatest challenge to the United States and our overall national security
interests in Asia may well eventually be posed by China. That is not certain. However, I
believe it is clear that China intends to be the preeminent regional military force and it
will be a powerful economic and political player globally. Given a whole range of factors,
I must characterize the nature of our future relations with China to be most uncertain. It
is premature to view China as an enemy or adversary, though we could make it our adversary
if we adopt a policy of trying to isolate and ostracize China as some in the U.S. and in
China do advocate by word or actions. China is certainly not accurately described as
"a strategic partner." However, China is, or almost certainly will be, our
competitor -- both militarily and economically and we should respectfully treat China as
such. It is certainly still possible for the U.S. and China to have a complementary or at
least largely compatible future relationship.
Unfortunately, while Sino-American relations are increasingly problematic, they are not a
zero-sum game, as some effectively would characterize them. Our relations are complex and
comprehensive and will only become more so in the future. Our concerns continue to
multiply in scope and gravity: espionage, both illegal and highly questionable campaign
contributions, threateningly asymmetrical military modernization, weapons proliferation,
abortion, human rights, Tibet, Taiwan, and unfair trade, among others. However, I believe
each of these issues needs to be addressed by the appropriate means in the appropriate
fora -- not, for example, in the annual congressional debate and vote on a presidential
decision to extend Normal Trade Relations (or NTR) to China or granting it permanent NTR
for Chinese accession to the World Trade Organization.
While China is a nuclear weapons state and is trying to modernize its conventional forces,
we should nevertheless be careful not to overrate its capabilities. The China of today is
certainly by no means the Soviet Union of yester-year. China's approximately 20
liquid-fueled nuclear missiles serve only as a deterrent force, and, though it is
modernizing, the People's Liberation Army is still a poorly trained, third-rate,
infantry-intensive force. Like China's state owned enterprises, the PLA -- as a primary
vanguard element of the Communist Party primarily and the defender of the Chinese state
faces very difficult (and potentially radical) challenges as it tries to evolve from a
Maoist organization to a modern, advanced military force that can project power in the
In light of the serious revelations of the Cox Committee, where I served as a member (and
here by revelations I mean what we actually concluded and not what embarrassed critics say
we said or implied that we said), and based upon other events and information, I
personally have concluded that it is now necessary to fundamentally re-examine American
foreign policy towards China. Every facet of our relationship needs to be re-evaluated.
And, since the Chinese now have an enhanced capacity to produce and weaponize a new
generation of missiles with more accurate and powerful weapons of mass destruction --
among other dangerous weapons to which little attention has been drawn -- and here is the
important point -- in a much shorter time horizon than we had anticipated, every action we
take with respect to the Chinese must be in both our longer term interest and our
We no longer necessarily have the luxury of the long lead-time (20-25 years) we once
thought rather certain. We cannot count on economic progress and the inevitable positive
changes deeper integration into the international community economic progress will bring
to China before they have a new level of threat and regional intimidation capacity. We can
no longer afford to be somewhat relaxed about always promptly defending our immediate
interests because "time is on our side". We cannot afford to be so careless and
trusting that long-term benefits will arrive in time. China is in evolution and its climb
up the power curve may be quicker than expected. Therefore, again, for emphasis, a policy
of responsible engagement must be centered on protecting and promoting both our short- and
long-term national interests on all occasions.
Of course, opportunities for positive change will not occur in all facets of U.S.-China
relations at the same time. We should seize opportunities that are in our short- and
long-term national interest when they arise. For example, the chance to make great
progress on trade problems with China and simultaneously advance economic reform in China
is present now available to us with the pending WTO accession agreement. Congress needs to
ensure that the United States benefits fully from this milestone opportunity by providing
China with permanent Normal Trade Relations (or PNTR) status as soon as possible. It's a
deal the President mistakenly said "no" to last April.
At this time, given the fact that China is still negotiating its bilateral agreement with
the EU and its accession protocols with the WTO itself, it appears that the earliest
Congress would act is in April and, hopefully, at least before June, which is the time the
President would have to issue the annual Jackson-Vanik waiver to continue China's current
NTR status for another year. Upon issuance of the waiver, the apparently inevitable
resolution of disapproval would be considered by the House. I remain hopeful that this
year we can replace this frustrating annual ritual with a clean up or down vote on
permanent NTR for China. If President Clinton and his Administration pull out all the
stops and buck up the courage of House Democrats who are intimidated by organized labor
and if candidate Gore reverses his current position to pander to labor before November, we
should succeed for America.
There will certainly be opposition to providing China with permanent NTR, though opponents
of PNTR in the U.S. have yet to propose any responsible or rational alternative that
benefits the United States. Recall that with this agreement we give up nothing. This is an
export-oriented agreement in which China makes all the concessions. Of course, it must be
understood that opposition to China's accession to the WTO is not limited to critics in
the United States. I believe that Premier Zhu Rongji and other leading economic reformers
in Beijing see the internal economic restructuring required by China's WTO accession as
necessary for sustaining economic growth and, therefore, maintain relative social
stability and the Communist Party's current and absolute monopoly on political power.
Clearly, they are taking a gamble. Ultimately, I believe that just as economic reform and
growth laid the foundation for political liberalization in Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere,
Premier Zhu's initiatives, if successful, may mark the beginning of the probably lengthy
end of the Communist Party's monopoly.
Certainly, this latter possibility is a traumatizing possibility for the hard-liners in
the PLA and elsewhere in the power structure. They are a powerful source of resistance to
the pace and scope of Zhu's economic reforms. Zhu is their ideological enemy. Furthermore,
despite the highly publicized announcements that the PLA has divested from its numerous
business interests throughout China, in reality the PLA remains closely involved with a
significant number of the inefficient and bankrupt state-owned enterprises which are
targeted for reform and privatization. How the PLA addresses and adapts to the overall
economic reforms as well as to its own internal reforms will be an important development
to watch. The questions about their reactions certainly do contribute to the uncertainty
in Sino-American relations.
Perhaps not fully understood here in the U.S., especially I fear among some of my
colleagues in Congress, is the overwhelming fixation or preoccupation Beijing has on the
issue of Taiwan. If there is any one issue that could bring the U.S. and China into armed
confrontation in the near future, it is Taiwan. This could have occurred in March 1996,
when, in the guise of military exercises, the PLA fired missiles that landed in the waters
off Taipei thereby resulting in the deployment of two U.S. aircraft carrier task forces to
the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan-PRC relations are particularly delicate at this moment because of the presidential
elections which will occur in Taiwan on March 18th. With three candidates in a virtual
dead heat, there is no way to predict the outcome. However, we need to be very concerned
about the possibility of one or more of the candidates, in desperation, playing the
"Taiwan independence card." We also need to follow Beijing's response very
closely in the aftermath to the elections, for the PRC may well be tempted to test the new
leader's resolve. There are too many Sinologists who believe that the Chinese still plan
an overt response of some nature to President Lee's "state-to-state" comments.
Finally on this subject, it is important to remember that the Chinese see the possibility
or movement to independence in Taiwan as a threat to their sovereignty -- not just in the
Taiwan Strait confrontation, but also in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Hong Kong, and
elsewhere in China. In short, this is an issue that merits very careful attention.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives considered and overwhelmingly passed the
controversial Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA). Introduced by Representative Tom
DeLay in the House and Senator Jesse Helms in the Senate, the TSEA, as originally
introduced, sought to establish a much closer relationship between Taiwan's military and
the U.S. armed forces. Some of the provisions in the introduced draft went, I felt, much
too far, were ill advised and, in some cases, unnecessary. For example, demonstrating an
apparent lack of knowledge, the legislation actually urged the United States to sell
diesel submarines to Taiwan. Now we don't make diesel submarines in the United States and
haven't for several decades. We no longer have the capacity in this country and the U.S.
Navy has every reason to resist recreating such a capability. Diesel submarines,
theoretically, might be bought from current producers such as Sweden, Germany, the
Netherlands, France, Australia or Russia, but not from the U.S.
Similarly, the draft legislation would have mandated an even more generous number of slots
for the education and training of additional Taiwanese officers. To do so, however, would
have meant reducing the level of training for our own military officers and those of other
countries, something that would undermine our own national security. That provision also
was altered in Committee as were a number of other significant changes made to other
provisions in the draft legislation.
Let me now turn from Northeast Asia to concerns that emanate from Southeast Asia.
Conditions in Indonesia are very troubling. The consequences of further economic and
political collapse, including a very real potential for the violent break-up of the
country, are extremely serious and would significantly impact regional stability and U.S.
national security in a most adverse way. The necessary and painful economic reforms
Indonesia must undertake would be daunting even to a well-established democracy. Indonesia
must boldly undertake this action while at the same time, with the most minimal experience
and direction, undertake massive political reform.
Indonesia, perhaps the most ethnically, religiously, geographically complicated country on
earth now has seen serious disintegrative and fratricidal ethnic religious forces emerge
in several parts of the country. To date, I believe that President Wahid has exceeded most
reasonable and informed international expectations in guiding Indonesia in the right
direction and preventing its collapse. In my judgment, the U.S. is correctly providing
financial, technical and political support for Indonesia in an effort to bolster these
positive efforts. Yet, the separatist attacks in Aceh, the religious riots in Ambon and
Lombok, and anti-Chinese pogroms that are occurring with increasing frequency and levels
of violence underscore how fragile and volatile the situation is in Indonesia. Given the
overall poor state of President Wahid's health, the questions about the ability of
Vice-President Megawati to effectively succeed Gus Dur, and given the ambitions of
National Assembly Speaker and Islamic Movement leader, Amin Rais, it appears to me that
the armed forces will continue, by necessity, to be the ultimate stabilizing force and
will, if necessary, act if they deem it necessary to ensure the secular integrity of
Indonesia-- just as they have done in the past.
The recent decision by an Indonesian government commission to charge six top Indonesian
generals, including General Wiranto, and their militia surrogates for human rights abuses
in East Timor certainly is a strong, positive action we must acknowledge. While supporting
the investigation and prosecution of those military leaders responsible for human rights
violations in East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere has an important bearing on U.S.- Indonesian
relations, we must not allow this set of issues alone to halt a proper engagement with
Indonesia's military or do crucial damage to our overall relations with this important
nation of over 200 million, as was the case with the problems of East Timor. I strongly
believe that previous well-intentioned (but in some cases special-interest motivated)
congressional actions which were focused on East Timor, such as the suspension of the
International Military Education and Training (or IMET) program and the denial to
Indonesia of an E-IMET program which was even more specifically aimed at human rights
training, have largely been counter-productive and have resulted in America losing overall
access and leverage in Indonesia, particularly with the Indonesian military. That was
recently made apparent by our limited ability to influence and temper the military's
actions in East Timor. We should learn from these mistakes and appreciate the fact that
military education programs and other forms of engagement with the Indonesian military
(now called the TNI) substantially benefit both our own military and our interest in
promoting military reform and professionalism. They clearly are in our overall national
The need for responsible US-Indonesian military-to-military engagement is even more
crucial today because the TNI is already undergoing significant changes as President Wahid
has transferred reform-minded generals and admirals into new positions of authority. For
the first time since the 1950s, Indonesia has a civilian defense minister; that is a move
we should applaud and do what we can to responsibly reinforce. Indeed, responsible U.S.
assistance and engagement can help promote and shape these positive developments.
Furthermore, in the past, when the U.S. was required to suspend military assistance, our
Australian allies stepped into this role and cultivated close ties with the TNI. However,
as a consequence of Australia's intervention in East Timor, these ties have become
severely strained and will take time to repair. If we leave a gap this time, there is no
one to fill it.
Lastly, let me turn briefly to South Asia. It seems like a distant memory, but just two
short years ago the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers met in Lahore. They solemnly
promised to resolve all outstanding differences, including Kashmir. Since that time,
however, there have been nuclear tests, the Kargil incursion, a military coup in Pakistan,
and, most recently, a terrorist hijacking. Rarely has the hope of peace been dashed so
I believe it is painfully clear to all that U.S. policy, designed to deter nuclear
proliferation and punish would-be nuclear powers, almost certainly served a useful
purpose, but ultimately it did not succeed. This policy may have helped deter
proliferation for many years, but with the nuclear tests that time has passed. Laws that
were enacted to deter proliferation now limit our ability to engage in very important ways
with India and Pakistan to actually avoid nuclear confrontation. I believe, for example,
that the United States now should work closely with India and Pakistan to better assure
that the control of this nuclear capability in their hands is as safe as possible. We have
fail-safe technology and experience with redundant command and control systems, elements
of which we can share, to ensure that inadvertent or unauthorized nuclear launches do not
occur. It is extremely important for India and Pakistan to have such technology. Remember,
for example, that during the Kargil crisis there were widespread rumors in both India and
Pakistan of imminent nuclear attack by the other side. With armies mobilizing and
airplanes being lost, the risk of escalation was very real. In such a situation, emergency
inter-country communications channels and secure command and control of nuclear assets are
essential. However, in general, we are prohibited by law from providing this type of
assistance. I have urged the Administration to act on this matter, but they insist that
their hands are tied. Frankly, I find this answer doubtful, but if accurate they need to
clearly and aggressively seek a statutory change.
I am pleased that the Congress has been able to legislate a waiver of the draconian
sanctions that were imposed immediately after the nuclear tests. Frankly, a prohibition on
commercial loans and a "no" vote in the IMF hurt American exporters and did
nothing to resolve our proliferation and security concerns. I am pleased to have had a
hand in lifting these sanctions together with a number of older, outmoded prohibitions
(i.e., the Pressler Amendment).
Let me say that, during my five year tenure as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and
the Pacific, I have tried very hard not to play favorites. I have sought to treat both
India and Pakistan on the merits of their case or actions. I continue to believe that the
United States can, and should, seek to have a positive relationship with both countries.
Again, in this instance, our relations with either country are not a zero-sum game. And,
again, as with East Timor, I refuse to play ethnic politics among factions in America.
On another related issue, there is currently a move by some friends of India to legislate
the placement of Pakistan on the State Department Terrorist Countries List. Placing
Pakistan on this list would mean that we have totally cut off Pakistan -- that we thereby,
effectively, no longer seek to influence the course of events in Pakistan. I cannot
believe that such a move is appropriate or in the U.S. national interest -- certainly not
on the basis of the information available and verified.
The United States continues to wield considerable influence in Islamabad. We are able to
encourage Pakistan's behavior in many ways. Of course, our influence is not absolute.
There no doubt will be occasions when the leadership in Pakistan will not heed our
warnings. But at this point it would be irresponsible to lump Pakistan together with the
likes of North Korea, Sudan, Iraq, and Libya. (It is reported that the Administration may
want to remove North Korea from the list.) Our policy should be to prevent Pakistan from
becoming a true rogue state. If Pakistan goes the way of Afghanistan -- adopting a
Taliban-style leadership -- the U.S. national interest would be severely threatened (as
would India's security).
Indeed, the challenges ahead for the U.S. in Asia are many and they are complex: North
Korea, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, India and Pakistan. And, these are not all of the areas
of concern. Undoubtedly, there will be a similar number of economic security and
competitive challenges the U.S. will confront in Asia in the coming years. However, we'll
have to save such predictions and speculations for another lunch!
Five years ago, when I held my first hearing as the new Chairman of the Asia-Pacific
Subcommittee, I stated in my opening remarks that we should recognize and appreciate the
extraordinary and growing importance of the Asia-Pacific region to the United States and
the world community. After all, the United States is also a Pacific country. Accordingly,
our policies and actions should be guided by the following three overall objectives:
The United States military and naval presence and security commitment
to the region must be sustained and enhanced both for the purpose of regional stability
and in furtherance of our foreign policy goals and national interest.
The United States must better focus and augment its resources to
defend our economic interests, to expand our commercial opportunities, and to ensure
American competitiveness in the region.
Mindful of the American commitment to our fundamental principles of
democracy, pluralism, and human rights, we must creatively utilize the most effective
bilateral, regional, and multilateral approaches to advance these principles in the
Maintaining -- indeed, strengthening -- our already close alliances
with Japan, Australia and South Korea is a fundamental factor in achieving these goals.
So, too, is building further upon the solid foundation of friendship and cooperation
already established with Singapore, Thailand, and, eventually, again with New Zealand. I
even have some optimism about new possibilities to strengthen our relationship and mutual
benefits with respect to the Philippines. Certainly, this region holds enormous importance
and promise for the United States. Our trade relations with Asia, our security relations
with Asia, and our political linkages with the region will greatly influence the U.S.
geo-strategic role in the 21st Century. We must give these relations the high level of
responsible, forward-looking attention they warrant.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of
PHILIPPINES: ACTION ALERT FOR
Subject:Philippines - 800 peasant families threatened with violent
eviction from farmlands inside state-owned school of the Central Mindanao University
MUSUAN is a town in Bukidnon province in the Southern Philippines, an agriculturally very
productive region with samll farms as well as plantations that are producing grains, sugar
cane, pineapples and lately, exotic cash crops for export. Big landlord families own most
of the farmlands in Bukidnon while the landless peasants suffer in poverty. Landlessness
is made worse by the governments Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and
other policies that benefit landlords and foreign corporations. The government also owns
3,080 hectares of lands through the Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Musuan town for
agricultural research. This government-owned school is far from a model for social justice
and acts much like the landlords in violating the human rights of the people to feed
themselves, to produce food and to food sovereignty.
Before this, the CMU worked harmoniously with the natives and settlers. In the early
1970s, it hired a few agricultural workers to till the idle lands as part of the
governments efforts to make its corporations earn some of their revenues. Many more
farmworkers arrived to till rice for private firms which temporarily lease land from the
CMU. They settled peacefully and raised their families in the school grounds.
When the biggest firm, Philippine Packing Corp., was about to close in 1984, the CMU
initiated an agribusiness project to combine agricultural research, training of the
university students and income generation for the farmworkers. In 1986, the project was
restarted as the Income Enhancement Program to exploit the idle lands of the school.
When Dr. Leonardo Chua became the schools president in 1987, he turned away from the
peaceful coexistence of farmworkers with the academic community of students, teachers,
off-farm staff and managers, and started efforts to remove the farmers. Chua began
branding the settled farmworkers as "squatters". In fact he only wanted to bring
in other farmworkers willing to till the farms without settling and asking the school for
This provoked the farmworkers to organize themselves into the Bukidnon Free Farmers and
Agricultural Labors Organization (BUFFALO) to protect their security of tenure. BUFFALO
applied with the governments Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the land rights
of 1,200 hectares of the school grounds. In 1991, the DAR issued to BUFFALO certificates
of land ownership (CLOAS) for 400 hectares, while two other farmer groups, Tamaraw and
Limus, got 200 hectares each.
The CMU under Chua consequently contested the land transfer in court. In October 1992, the
government, through the Supreme Court, used CARP to exempt itself from the constitutional
safeguards for landless farmers.
The farmworkers opposed the ruling with militant protests but were dealt with cruelly by
the school management. In 1994, Chua caused private security guards to demolish the houses
of the farmworkers and two peasant leaders were shot dead.
Chua was succeeded by Dr. Jaime Gellor, and in July 1998, by Dr. Mardonio Lao who is also
determined to remove the farmworker-farmers. Since his first day as chief, he began to
press all kinds of legal and illegal tricks to terrorize the three groups of
In sum, Lao is blackmailing the farmers to sign an agreement for a 'civil law lease' which
allows him to order farmers to vacate the land anytime, keep them out and rent out the
lands to agribusiness firms. Together with the governor of Bukidnon, he is using the 1992
Supreme Court ruling to justify the forcible eviction of the farmers by private security
guards, the military and goons (even if the ruling merely declares exemption from land
reform and did not say anything about eviction). The three farmer groups, led by BUFFALO,
believe that only a leasehold agreement and a sound development plan would be fair for all
parties. The leasehold proposes that farmers till the CMU lands, remit a fixed portion of
the harvest to the campus and provide indigenous training for the agriculture students.
Lao, however, rejects any settlement and pushes for a monopoly of power, as he convinced
the school board and already violated an earlier agreement with the three farmer groups to
negotiate for a leasehold.
President Estrada, who was elected in 1998 because of his promise to improve the lives of
the poor, is favoring the reconcentration of lands and wealth into the hands of the big
landlords, compradors and multinational firms. The regime committed itself to the
prescriptions of the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization to privatizate,
liberalize and deregulate all sectors of the economy, including education. Last year, the
Commission on Higher Education directed all state-owned schools such as CMU to raise their
own funds from joint ventures with big business,
while this year the government budget for education was cut in favor of the armed forces
and foreign debt payments.
Therefore, CMUs effort to remove the farmers is in line with the governments
thrusts. It is part of the plan of all public agricultural training institutes (ATIs) to
abandon assistance to small farmers and put themselves at the service of agrocorporations
who will use the lands, talents and government research funds of ATIs for their own
profit. Alarmingly, these government institutions are geared to further promote
unsustainable corporate farming practices that will worsen landlessness in the country.
Why the Action Alert?:
The three farmer groups have no hope in the Estrada government to act favorably for a just
settlement. There is no other way but to actively defend their rights because if they
would be evicted, the farmers have nowhere to go and might be forced to migrate to the
cities where they would have to live in misery.
Most farmlands in Mindanao are monopolized by the ruling families and even the government
admits it cannot find a place to relocate the farmers. Yet CMUs administration is
ready to repeat the bloody eviction of 1994 and only a determined people will prevent the
ruling elite from defeating
the cause of the tillers.
BUFFALO, Tamaraw, Limus and the national movement of landless peasants and farmworkers
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) are working to prevent this meaningless loss of
lives and livelihood, and ask for support to make sure the Bukidnon farmers continue to be
able to feed themselves and the nation as well.
Please write polite letters to the Commissioner of Higher Education asking her to take the
CMU to task in assuring the farmers rights to lead productive lives in the farmlands
of the school.
Please ask the Commissioner to prevent Dr. Lao from evicting the farmers and to order the
CMU administration to allow them to lease the disputed lands in exchange for a fair share
from their farm produce and to cooperate with the farmers to draw up a democratic school
Please also mail a copy to Dr. Mardonio Lao of CMU. We encourage you to write your own
letters. Of course, you can also use or modify the sample letter given below.
Hon. Ester Garcia
Commission on Higher Education
Development Academy of the Philippines Bldg.
Dr. Mardonio Lao
Central Mindanao University
If you can still write to the following people, please do so because they can urge the
administrators to sit down in a fair negotiation with the farmer groups. Letters by post
and fax are preferred but you may send e-mail instead to save on postage and fax charges.
Rep. Abdullah S. Mangotara
Committee on Agrarian Reform
Congress of the Philippines
House of Representatives
Batasan Hills, Quezon City,
Fax (632) 931-6888
Rep. Dante Liban
House Committee on Higher Education
House of Representatives
Quezon City, Philippines
Fax (632) 9514333
Senator Teresita Aquino Oreta
Senate Committee on Higher and Technical Education
Congress of the Philippines, Senate
Room 516 GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Roxas Boulevard
Pasay City, Philippines
Please inform KMP about any response to your letters by sending an
email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the KMP
website at http://www.geocities.com/kmp_ph/
for more details and updates.
Commissionon Higher Education
I would like to relay to you my concerns about the eviction threat against some 800
farming families from 400 hectares of the Central Mindanao University premises. I believe
that as a farming school, the CMU ought to forge a partnership with the farmers because
they devoted their lives to make the university a real training school for food security
of the people.
I am alarmed that Dr. Lao, the schools president, is using undemocratic methods in
forcing out the farmers and suppressing the opposition among the students, faculty and
staff of CMU. Lao is reportedly sending private guards to harass the farmers and scare the
students who might sympathize with them. Dr. Lao derisively calls the farmers
"squatters" while he would prefer big corporations to profit from the
I am aware that the Supreme Court has ruled that the CMU lands are in the custody of the
state and cannot be alienated and disposed. Therefore, I believe that the lands should be
used in the interest of the majority of Filipinos, the peasants. You will certainly agree
with me that laws should serve the people and should not be tools that add to poverty,
suffering and conflict.
I simply ask that the farmers be given the fullest sense of justice and fairness, because
they have already respected the ruling and they deserve the guarantee of equitable sharing
of the nations wealth.Therefore, I support the request of the BUFFALO, Tamaraw and
Limus groups of farmers to be given first priority in leasing the CMU farmlands. I ask for
the withdrawal of all armed guards from the farmers lands and for a just and fair
settlement of the conflict in the interest of the farmers. Please instruct CMUs
administration to take immediate and appropriate action.
I would greatly appreciate you keeping me informed about any future developments in this