Foreign secretary talks of colonial legacy

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus spoke to the Monitor last week in between his rounds at the United Nations General Assembly. As point man in base negotiations with the United States, Mr. Manglapus says, he is trying to explain the Filipino perspective on relations with its former colonial power.

He speaks frankly about perceived American paternalism. Despite hackles raised in reminding the American people of the background of the bases, he says, ``we Filipinos owe it to ourselves to come up with the truth and not sweep it under the rug.''

Filipinos both respect and resent the US, he says. This is the legacy of an ``ambiguous'' US colonialism - the Philippines was given a good degree of political autonomy, while economic exploitation continued.

When the country became independent after World War II, Manglapus says, there was a ``feeling of mutuality'' on the Philippine side. But on the American side was ``a self-confidence that the Filipinos would take anything that was given.'' An example he cites is that Filipino veterans who fought with US forces in World War II were paid only half the amount paid American veterans.

The US bases represent what many Filipinos perceive to be an unequal relationship, Manglapus says. For 48 years of colonial rule, the Philippines ``didn't get a single cent'' for the bases, and subsequent compensation was small compared to their strategic value to the US.

When the US earlier this year suggested including base workers' salaries as part of a new compensation package for the last years of the current agreement, the Philippines suspended the talks. That offer was a ``joke'' and an ``insult,'' Manglapus says, since the wages are a payment for services rendered.

Manglapus says the Philippines is now seeking equitable compensation. It is also keeping its options open about whether to renew the base agreement in 1991, he adds. The debt-swap plan he presented to Washington two weeks ago may be the basis for a compensation agreement. But he is not predicting that an accord will be reached this year.

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