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US reveals military nature of trilateral summit; NDFP denounces BBM’s sellout of PH sovereignty

United States President Joe Biden revealed plans for a more aggressive military presence in the Indo-Pacific region at the start of the US-Japan-Philippine trilateral summit in Washington DC, seen as a warning to Beijing that it will not surrender its dominance in the area.

Launching the summit at the White House on Thursday, April 11, Biden said the Cold War-era Mutual Defense Treaty between Washington and Manila requires the US to respond to an armed attack on the Philippines in the South China Sea.

 “United States defense commitments to Japan and to the Philippines are iron clad,” he said.

The agreement “extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft—to include those of its Coast Guard— in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea,” a White House readout reads.

Biden is hosting Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a first-of-its-kind summit between Manila and two of its former invaders.

Beijing on the other hand said the meeting is an interventionist attempt by the US to escalate tensions in the region as it maintains its claims over an inordinate expanse of the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, even those that fall on the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). China ratified the convention a month later on December 1982.

China however refuses to honor the 2016 international arbitral ruling rejecting its claims and have since attacked Southeast Asian fishing boats and coast guards in the region.

Marcos selling out PH sovereignty

The international office of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP International) meanwhile called Marcos Jr.’s participation in the summit “an utter and complete sell-out of Philippine sovereignty to US war designs in Asia.”

“Marcos Jr. is willingly offering the Philippine archipelago to serve as a ‘theater of war’ by allowing the US to position its military arsenal on land, sea, and air. The Philippines is a crucial piece in the ‘US Island Chain strategy’ to contain China,” NDFP International said.

Also scornful of China’s aggression against Filipino fisherfolk and ships as well as occupation of land features within the Philippine EEZ, NDFP International added that Marcos Jr. is allowing US to constrict regional waterways and position readily deployable military air power in close proximity to China.

“In order to achieve its objectives, the US is escalating war preparations in the region by encouraging Japan and other imperialist allies to join the geopolitical chess game,” the group said.

NDFP International also said that the forthcoming Balikatan Exercises later this month shall be the biggest in history with at least 16,000 troops.

“The Balikatan war games this year aims to test the so-called ‘Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CDAC)’ patterned after US imperialist war plans in the region. These actions form part of the US strategy to provoke China into ‘firing the first shot’ demonstrating the US government’s bloodthirst,” it said.

Marcos Jr.’s actions prove his outright subservience to US imperialist war preparations and his readiness to drag the Filipino people in the middle of a brewing inter-imperialist conflict. Marcos Jr. must be held accountable for his reprehensible sell-out of Philippine sovereignty and his blatant disregard for the lives of the Filipino masses, the group said.

NDFP International also said it denounces Biden for his government’s continued exportation of wars of aggression from Ukraine to Palestine and now using the Philippines as a pawn against China. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

BAYAN leads rallies vs. foreign military buildup in PH, trilateral summit in DC

Anti-imperialist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) led a protest rally at the Chinese consulate on Tuesday, demanding foreign troops within the Philippine territory to stop militarizing the West Philippine Sea.

The group again denounced China’s incursions into Philippine maritime territories as well as repeated harassment of Filipino fisherfolk and ships in what has become an annual rally held every Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor).

“China’s bully behavior and continued aggression against its neighbors is the reason for its increasing isolation. It claims to maintain friendly relations but its provocative actions betray its real intent of dominating the whole of South China Sea even if it contravenes international rules and undermines the territorial integrity of its neighboring countries,” BAYAN said.

Day of Valor symbolizes the commitment of Filipinos to resist foreign aggressors, marking the day when the Philippines fell in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942.

BAYAN pointed out that China also endured suffering during the Second World War, adding that its arrogance against the Philippines is a “shameful betrayal of how it fought foreign invaders in the past.”

“We call on China to move out of the West Philippine Sea, dismantle its illegal structures, recognize the 2016 arbitral ruling, and to stop harassing Filipino fisherfolk and Philippine supply missions,” it said.

BAYAN said it continues to call for the demilitarization of the West Philippine Sea, saying Philippine resistance against Chinese aggression should not lead to foreign military buildup and the “recolonization” of the Philippines through the installation of American military facilities across the country.

It also condemned the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government for turning the West Philippine Sea into a staging ground for foreign troops led by the US.

“Marcos Jr. is needlessly dragging the country into an escalation of conflict that will inflict more suffering among our people. We should not be a cannon fodder in the inter-imperialist rivalry and war between China and the US,” BAYAN said.

Police prevent anti-imperialist activists from conducting a protest rally in Manila. (Photo by N. Bacarra/Kodao)

Trilateral Summit to polarize region further

On Thursday, April 11, BAYAN also led a rally at he US Embassy in Manila, condemning the US-Japan-Philippines trilateral summit to be held at the White House.

In a statement, BAYAN also said the summit in Washington DC today is pushing existing tensions to a critical level.

BAYAN accused the summit as an escalation of the “US-led imperialist economic and military warfare” that will devastate the lives of working peoples in the region and squander the people’s money away from much needed services and welfare.

Caricature images of Biden, Kishida and Marcos Jr. at an anti-imperialist rally in Manila. (Photo by N. Bacarra/Kodao)

President Marcos is attending the summit, announced as the strengthening of security ties though joint military exercises among the three nations.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is representing Japan while US President Joe Biden serves as host.

“What is obfuscated in Washington’s war propaganda is the fact that these military exercises are happening only in the Philippines with the US-Marcos regime’s increased subservience to the US through additional Enhanced Defense Cooperation (EDCA) sites or bases, and the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) between Japan and the Philippines, similar to the 25-year long RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” BAYAN explained.

The group also recalled that both the US and Japan invaded the Philippines last century.

“We call on peace advocates and anti-imperialist formations in these three countries to play a lead role in arousing, organizing and mobilizing against US-led militarism, interventionism and aggression by mounting protest actions that expose and oppose the April 11 Trilateral Summit to be held in the White House,” BAYAN said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Stop the dump’: Pacific communities protest Japan’s release of treated nuclear water

Scientists monitoring the process say it is safe

By Mong Palatino / Global Voices

Protests were organized across the Pacific region after Japan started releasing treated water from the decommissioned Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami resulted in a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which contaminated the groundwater with radioactive materials. This water has been collected, treated, and stored onsite since 2011.

Since 2021, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has been preparing the infrastructure for the “safe” release of Fukushima’s treated water through a process called the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). The Japanese government has approved the plan but various stakeholders raised alarm about its impact not just in Japan but also in the Pacific region.

On August 24, Japan started discharging treated water amid lingering concern about the damage it may cause. TEPCO explained the process of releasing the water which will take place over the next three decades:

During the initial stages of sea discharge, a very small amount will be carefully discharged using a two-step process.

Firstly, as Stage 1 of the initial discharge of ALPS treated water, today, a very small amount of ALPS treated water will be diluted with seawater and stored in the vertical discharge shaft (upstream water tank) in order to verify that ALPS treated water is being diluted as planned. After this stored water has been sampled and tritium concentrations measured, we will move on to Stage 2, continuous discharge into the sea on and after August 24.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been monitoring the preparation of TEPCO and it released a report noting the “negligible” impact of the treated water on the environment.

IAEA concluded that Japan’s approach and activities to discharge ALPS-treated water are consistent with relevant international safety standards. The report noted that the controlled, gradual discharges of the treated water to the sea, as currently planned and assessed by TEPCO, would have a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.

The Pacific Islands Forum, the official group of Pacific governments, said that it will continue its engagement with Japan for more information and transparency, although it is divided on whether it will support or reject the release of treated water.

But for Pacific environment groups, the dumping of treated water is tantamount to destroying marine life and the future of the region. Justice Pacific’s statement reflects this popular sentiment among non-government organizations:

The implications of Japan’s decision to dispose of nuclear waste water in such a manner are far-reaching and potentially catastrophic. It not only poses a severe threat to marine life and ecosystems but also raises serious concerns about the health and safety of Pacific communities that depend on these waters for their livelihoods and sustenance.

In Fiji, hundreds of residents took to the streets to denounce Japan’s dumping of treated water into the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Feminist Community of Practice warned about potential radiation exposure:

Japan’s actions in releasing radioactive waste water from the #Fukushima nuclear disaster into the #Pacific ocean is adding to intergenerational burdens for our region. The science is in, no matter what this violent and poisonous industry says. There is no safe dose of radiation.

During the protest, community leaders mentioned the painful experience of Pacific islands which became nuclear testing grounds of developed countries like the United States and France for several decades. The same communities face heightened risk linked to the harsh impact of climate change. The threat posed by any potential disastrous impact caused by the discharge of treated water from Fukushima exacerbates the suffering of these communities.

Participants in the protests also shouted slogans inspired by the anti-nuclear movement in the region like this one: “If it is safe, dump it in Tokyo! If it is safe, test it in Paris! If it is safe, store it in Washington! But keep our Pacific nuclear free!”

Dr. Marco de Jong, a Sāmoan New Zealander and Pacific historian, spoke to Teuila Fuatai and discussed how science is being used to silence the voices of dissent in the Pacific.

To suggest that Pacific people are approaching this unscientifically is a supreme form of colonial gaslighting that diminishes our collective rights, our rights to self-determination, and our proper concern for intergenerational impacts. It’s simply untrue and leans into racist stereotypes — that as Pacific people, we’re not capable of understanding complex issues. When, really, we know our rights and we know that this is a transboundary harm issue.

Protests have been reported too, in Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and the Philippines. Meanwhile, China has banned the importation of seafood from some prefectures in Japan. #

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Kodao publishes Global Voices reports as part of a content sharing agreement.

In another blow for Japan’s Summer Games, male chauvinist “Olympig” is forced to resign

Second high-level resignation over misogynistic remarks

By Nevin Thompson

On March 17, Tokyo Olympic creative director Sasaki Hiroshi was forced to quit after making misogynistic remarks, becoming the second high-ranking official to be pushed out of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 because of overt sexism. Sasaki’s resignation marks yet another setback for the 2020 Olympic Games, already postponed a year because of the pandemic, and plagued with gaffes, low public support and the ongoing problem of COVID-19.

Sasaki Hiroshi, who until March had been responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, had been seconded to the position from giant advertising and public relations firm Dentsu. Sasaki stated he proposed the idea a year ago that popular comedian and entertainer Watanabe Naomi, a woman, dress up as a pig as a play on words taking the last three letters of “Olympics.” Sasaki was forced to explain his comments after investigative news magazine Shukan Bunshun broke the story on March 17.

In February, the president of the Japan Olympic Organizing Committee, Yoshiro Mori, had already been forced to resign after making and doubling down on misogynistic comments. Amid national protests, at least 1,000 Olympic volunteers quit before Mori was forced out.

Chelsea Szendi Schieder, historian and faculty member at Aoyama Gakuin University, remarked:

Proposing to cast Watanabe Naomi, the most charismatic talent working in Japan today, as the “Olympig” in the opening ceremonies is insulting, and sadly on-brand for Tokyo 2020.

Others noted that Sasaki’s proposal seemed to exemplify an out-of-touch gerontocracy that is in charge of both the Olympics and Japan itself, a country recently ranked 120th in the world for gender equity. Freelance journalist Thoton Akimoto said:

Who on earth could think dressing up Watanabe Naomi as a pig, and then making her say “I’m an Olympig” would ever be a good idea for the opening ceremony of the Olympics? It’s not only demeaning to Watanabe, but also to anyone self-conscious of their own appearance. The idea could also be perceived as being anti-women. It’s as though Sasaki confused the Olympics with a vulgar variety television show with a 60s or 70s sensibility.

In an official statement, Watanabe said there were no plans for her to participate in the opening ceremonies after the Olympics had been postponed last year, and that she was unaware of Sasaki’s remarks.

Watanabe also said:

As Naomi Watanabe, a person in the public eye, it is true that there are times when people have told me my physique is large, and I have been working with the understanding that there will be times when I will be taunted for it.

In reality, I am very happy with my figure. Therefore, I want to continue to express myself not only as someone who is large but as ‘Naomi Watanabe.’

However, as one human being, I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that the world can become a joyous place where each person’s individuality and ideas are respected and accepted by all.

Amid ongoing controversies, celebrities and other prominent people continue to pull out of the torch relay, which kicked off on March 25 in Fukushima prefecture. Most celebrities, such as beloved entertainer and television host Shofukutei Tsurube and gentleman crooner Itsuki Hiroshi cited “scheduling conflicts” when pulling out of the torch relay.

They are likely responding to public sentiments about the Games. A recent poll by news agency Kyodo found that 80 per cent of Japanese people think the Olympics should be either canceled, or postponed again due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The poll was conducted following Mori Yoshiro’s earlier misogynistic remarks in January and February, which also prompted the exodus of Olympic volunteers.

Despite the setbacks and seeming low public support for the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have insisted the Olympic torch relay will continue as planned  (a “men-only” stage was canceled after public outrage) even as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in cities along the route, including Osaka and Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Japan, with a population of 126 million people, has entered its “fourth wave” of COVID-19. More than 1 million COVID-19 cases have been identified in the country since the start of the pandemic in February 2020, and infection numbers in some parts of the country continue to increase week over week.

By the beginning of April this year, the seven-day average in Tokyo, with a population of 15 million people, identified 440 new cases of COVID-19 per day, compared to 376 and 303 on the previous two Fridays.

On April 1, Osaka prefecture, with a population of 8.8 million, logged its highest daily case count of COVID-19 since January 23, with 559 new cases. Japan’s central government, which retains overall control over regional COVID-19 management measures, has been forced to re-enact stronger measures to reduce infections.

Rising numbers of infections have alarmed not only the Japanese government but others as well. The U.S. military, which itself was implicated with the initial spread of COVID-19 throughout Japan, has identified “red zones” in the country:

Vaccines may not offer an easy exit from COVID-19. While speeding up, Japan’s vaccination program is off to a slow start, with less than one per cent of the population vaccinated so far. The government has signed deals with vaccine providers, and is focusing on healthcare workers and seniors first.

In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese government has decided to host an “athletes-only” Olympic Games. Theoretically, this would limit the number of overseas visitors to just 15,000. However, the rule would also allow families, coaches, media and sponsors—potentially 100,000 to 200,000 people—to enter Japan from overseas.

Japan’s decision to close its borders to anyone but its citizens has left some foreign residents of Japan stranded overseas. The situation is especially difficult for foreign students, many of whom have been unable to enter Japan for more than a year. While re-entry restrictions have been relaxed, it can still be difficult for students and some workers to receive permission to enter the country.

There are fears Japan will not admit foreigners, including students, visitors, and visa-holders until at least September 2021—after the Olympic Games have concluded.

The Japan Olympic Organizing Committee appears unwilling to acknowledge howregular gaffes, a pattern of outright misogyny among senior leadership and the sense the COVID-19 pandemic is being ignored have all resulted in low public support for the Games.

Instead, after news magazine Shukan Bunshun reported on the Sasaki Hiroshi’s “Olympig” comments that resulted in his resignation, Hashimoto Seiko, who replaced Mori Yoshiro on the new Organizing Committee, demanded the publication retract the story and pull all physical copies from circulation.

Shukan Bunshun bluntly refused, causing yet a new controversy for the Tokyo Olympics. Besides noting that it is in the public interest to report on a taxpayer-funded event, Shukan Bunshan concluded its response with this question:

Translation:

Who are the Tokyo Olympics for? It shouldn’t just be an “Olympics for some people,” such as the organizing committee, Dentsu, and politicians.

Original Quote:

東京オリンピックは、誰のためにあるのか。組織委員会や電通、政治家など利益を得る一部の人々のために、オリンピックがあるのではないか。

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Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Gabriela condemns govt’s removal of comfort woman statue

Women’s group Gabriela strongly condemned the removal of the comfort woman statue along Roxas Boulevard in Manila Friday, saying the move is a desecration of Filipino women’s dignity.

Blaming Japan and the Rodrigo Duterte government for the statue’s removal, the group said the move casts a foul insult on hundreds of victims of sex slavery during the Japanese Imperial Army’s occupation of the Philippines in World War II.

Despite opposition from women’s rights advocates, historians and other sectors, “Japan once again succeeded in imposing its revisionist take on WW II on puppet regimes like the Duterte regime,” Gabriela in a statement said.

(Photo by Atty. Dennis Gorecho)

Groups and personalities are still trying to find out who ordered the removal, seeking explanations from both the Department of Public Works and Highways and the City Government of Manila.

Lawyer Dennis Gorecho, a volunteer during the statue’s erection and unveiling near Manila Bay’s breakwater, said the statue was installed with the blessings of the National Historical Institute and should be considered a historical landmark and monument protected under Republic Act No. 10066, otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

The law protects the statue against prohibited acts such as intentional destruction, demolition, mutilation, damage, modification, and alteration, Gorecho explained.

Gorecho added construction and real estate development in any national shrine, monument, landmark and other historic edifices and structures, declared, classified, and marked by the National Historical Institute as such, are prohibited without the prior written permission from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

This includes the designated security or buffer zone, extending five meters from the visible perimeter of the monument or site.

An image posted on Gorecho’s Facebook account however showed a backhoe machine operating near the statue. In the lower part of the image, the statue could no longer be seen.

(Image from Atty Dennis Gorecho’s Facebook page)

Lila Pilipina, the organization of women sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army, Tulay Foundation, a group whose members belong to Manila’s Chinese-Filipino community victimized by Japanese atrocities during the war, and other groups and individuals spearheaded the construction and installation of the statue.

It was unveiled last December 8 with NHCP executive director Ludovico Badoy in attendance, along with Gabriela, and others groups and personalities.

Similar “comfort women” statues were earlier erected in Korea, Australia, Canada, Germany, San Francisco and New Jersey, USA.

“The comfort woman statue supposedly serves as a reminder to future generations of Japan’s atrocities and abuses against Filipino women during the Second World War, and women’s historical victimization in times of wars of aggression,” Gabriela said.

Japan, however vigorously protested the erection of the statue with the Duterte government, threatening diplomatic and economic sanctions.

Japan has refused to acknowledge it sanctioned the sexual enslavement of hundreds of thousands of women during its rampage across the region during the war.

Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda reportedly expressed Tokyo’s disappointment over the erection of the statue along Roxas Boulevard during her courtesy call on Duterte last January 16 in Malacañan.

Gabriela blamed the Duterte government for caving in to Japan.

“[I]t is highly despicable that the Duterte government, like a thief in the night, removed the comfort woman statue in Manila. What has been left of the marker will be a stark reminder of how the Duterte regime pimped the dignity of women and the Filipino nation in exchange for multi-billion Japanese loans and technical assistance,” Gabriela said.

Despite the statue’s removal, Gabriela said it will vigorously pursue efforts to expose Japan’s sex slavery in the country and other parts of the globe.

“Women will persevere in highlighting the horrors of Japanese occupation, no matter how Japan and its puppets try to cover it,” Gabriela said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Photos by Atty. Dennis Gorecho)

Filipino comfort women hold protest rally on Japanese Emperor’s visit

Filipino comfort women led a protest rally near Malacañan Palace on the occasion of Japanese Emperor Akihito’s ongoing visit to the Philippines. They also called on Philippine President Benigno Aquino to seek justice in their behalf.

Hundreds of young Filipinas were abducted by Japanese imperial forces during World War II and were forced to become sex slaves for the invading forces. Japan has never formally acknowledged the crime in the Philippines although it recently issued an official apology to the comfort women in Korea.

Aquino reportedly did not bring the matter up with the Emperor in their meeting yesterday.

Majority of the Filipina comfort women has since died and only a few are alive to carry on the fight for justice.