BEHIND THE LINES: Mutual respect PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 November 2010 17:06

We’ve been hosting the American forces since the year 2000. Back then, I was interviewed by a Saudi Arabian television network and the question the reporter put across was: “How long do you think will the Americans stay in the Philippines?” My answer: “Forever.” It’s been 10 years since the Americans re-landed on Philippine soil, and they’re still here. Now, the government is on the threshold of reviewing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), much to the discernment of radical groups, civil society organizations and some senators who want the VFA abrogated. Zamboanga has played host to the Americans in exchange for pittance, like a few computers, school books, desks, classrooms and other little things that don’t play a major factor in the development of our city.

Let me point out that it was the American engineers and their heavy equipment that helped fix the circumferential road in Isabela, Basilan. It was the Americans that built the roads and airport in General Santos. It was the American dollar that funded cause-oriented foundations in the Philippines. America sinks money in third-world countries such as ours. We owe Uncle Sam so much that it will take eternity to pay off our debt. Even with the appreciation of the peso and the depreciation of the dollar, we still have to sit on our debt because we are operating on a deficit budget yearly. That’s the reason why the Americans will stay, the same reason why the review of the VFA and eventual amendment to some of its provisions will never happen.

We need America, pretty much the same as we need the Chinese and Japanese for trading purposes. We, more than any other city in the country, are happy to host the American forces. But we need a fair exchange for our hospitality. The present airport should be relocated to the east. We will have a funding problem if such a plan gets off the ground. America can help.

La Paz is a great mountain resort that needs to be developed, if eco-tourism is one of our goals. America can help fix the rugged terrain that stretches for only 13 kilometers from the diversionary road in Ayala to the top of the mountain. America can assist the water district in building a water holding dam so we can store enough water for the sweltering summer months. This is not asking too much of America, is it?

We can not prosper by our lonesome. To build, we have to have more money. That’s why we need America’s help – in exchange for our goodness and hospitality. This is mutual respect. This is partnership. This can spell a better future for Zamboanga. We should take advantage of their presence.--Bob Jaldon