By Nuel M. Bacarra
Filipino-American activists belonging to the United States of America, District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and its member organizations condemned the high-level meeting earlier this week between US and Philippine cabinet secretaries they said further undermines Philippine sovereignty.
In a statement, the activists said the meeting purported “to reaffirm the United States commitment to (its) alliance with the Philippines which has contributed to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region for more than 70 years,” was meant to bolster the ongoing US-led war games that started on that day in the Philippines.
The group also condemned the addition of four new Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in the Philippines widely seen as a containment maneuver against Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
“The four new locations… indicate a considerable motive for the US to intervene in the country and intimidate China. The amplified scale of the Balikatan exercises also aligns with accelerated motions to provoke China before actual combat ensues,” BAYAN-USA-DMV said.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III met with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo and Philippine Department of National Defense officer in charge Carlito Galvez Jr. in a ministerial dialogue that discussed Indo-Pacific security, Philippine military modernization, economic and environmental security and alliance partnerships.
DFA Secretary Manalo said, “We especially welcome the United States pledge to fast-track and to ramp up support for the modernization of our defense, civilian law enforcement and humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities, especially in the maritime domain, as well as the implementation of EDCA projects and investments in and around EDCA-agreed locations.”
BAYAN-USA-DMV however said the event was only meant to justify the Balikatan military exercises that see a 140% increase in US military presence in the Philippines involving 12,000 US forces, 5,000 Filipinos and 111 forces from Australia.
The group added that US support to the Philippines uses US taxpayers’ dollars in arming and funding of the Philippine military and police known for gross human rights violations, including the indiscriminate bombings in Mindanao, in Negros, military encampments on indigenous and farmer communities and the massacre of human rights and peace advocates, activists and environmental defenders.
More groups abroad oppose war games
The group Malaya Movement in New York called for the junking of “unequal military agreements” between the US and the Philippines because as “ineffective and unnecessary” as well as contradictory to Philippines sovereignty and the interests of the Filipino people.
“[T]here is no doubt that [the Balikatan] is a military build up to war in Asia Pacific…meant to provoke China and to stoke the flames of world war,” the group said.
International League of Peoples’ Struggle – Hong Kong and Macau also condemned “US military’s intervention in the Philippines undermining our national sovereignty under the pretext of its humanitarian assistance and disaster response propaganda.”
“We denounce the move of the US government to undermine our national sovereignty through the EDCA additional sites and the Balikatan exercises. We demand the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” the group in a statement said.
“The Balikatan exercises are not beneficial to the Filipino people. The funds allotted for the war games should instead be used to resolve more worthwhile concerns such as hunger and poverty, failing health and education services. War games are costly in financial terms while entailing massive environmental destruction. It breeds human rights abuses, corruption in the military and intensifies local conflict,” it added. # (with reports from Raymund B. Villanueva)