Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN Philippines)
On the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the International League of Peoples Struggle led protesters in front of the US embassy in Manila to denounce the upcoming Balikatan war exercises in April. The Manila protests are part of a global call for mass actions issued by the ILPS against US wars of aggression and bases.
Bayan also questioned why the Balikatan war games were being expanded from a once bilateral exercise into a multilateral exercise. The group was protesting what it called “continuing US military presence” in the Philippines and in Asia.
“Whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Philippines, the purpose of the US troop deployment is to advance US hegemonic interests. We know that talks are underway for greater US military presence in the Philippines. The Balikatan war games are a vital cog in US military power projection in the region. We may be seeing the start of bigger and more frequent military exercises under the new US defense strategy of rebalancing towards Asia,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“We have been kept in the dark regarding the status of the Malacanang-Washington negotiations on US troop presence in the Philippines. From what we are seeing from news reports though, it seems that the Philippine and US governments are hell bent in making the Philippines a working military outpost even without any basing treaty,” he added.
Bayan said that the multilateral character of the upcoming Balikatan exercises means that the US is bringing in its other treaty allies into the Philippines. Participating countries include Japan, South Korea and Australia, all major military treaty allies of the US. Other ASEAN countries are also expected to join.
“The US wants to make it appear that its military agenda in the region is supported by different countries, not just the Philippines. It is part of their grand design to gain acceptability and support for continued US military presence in Asia. Of course, we expect the US troop deployment to be directed towards China, a major rival of the US,” Reyes said.
“The Filipino people, as well as the peoples of Asia should reject US military intervention and hegemonism in the region. The people of Japan and South Korea have long shouldered the burden of hosting US military bases. Apart from the Philippines, Australia is also being lined up to host more US troops. The purpose of the troop deployment is to ensure US interests are advanced in this region. It is not true that these troops are out to protect weaker countries like the Philippines. The US troops will only escalate tensions in the region,” he added.
Bayan said that the multilateral Balikatan war games may escalate into full-blown multilateral military exercises in the future.
“What existing agreement covers the entry and participation of other foreign troops in the Balikatan? We have no Visiting Forces Agreement with them, nor are they the subject of the Mutual Defense Treaty. The Philippine government is opening up our country to various military activities that may not be in accord with our national intersts,” Reyes said.
Bayan doubted the stated purpose of the war games, saying that the activities are not limited to disaster preparedness and cooperation. “That is just the cover, the PR justification of inviting thousands of US troops to engage in activities on Philippine soil. We don’t think they’re here just to help us with eathquakes and conduct medical missions. The US defense strategy requires that they station and rotate thousands of US troops in Asia to encircle and contain China and secure the areas in the region that are rich in natural resources like oil,” Reyes explained.
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