Farm workers oppose more US military facilities in the country

UMA: Increased US presence means more war, human rights violations, economic plunder

A federation of farm workers expressed fears that the establishment of more United States (US) military facilities in the country would give rise to more war, human rights violations and foreign economic plunder in the Philippines.

Following reports of aerial bombings in Hacienda Intal in Baggao, Cagayan last February 2, the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said it is alarmed that US troops would not only encourage “state terrorism”, they may even participate in military operations that inevitably affect farming communities.

“Bukod sa dinadawit tayo ng US sa mga gerang hindi atin at taliwas sa pambansang interes ng Pilipinas, gagamitin din ito ng mga imperyalista para sulsulan ang estado na lalong supilin, atakihin, at dahasin ang sarili nating mga kababayan,” UMA chairperson John Milton Lozande said.

(Aside from dragging us into wars that are not ours and are against Philippine national interest, the imperialists would use these military bases to persuade the government to suppress, attack, and commit violence against our people.)

Both already heavily-militarized, the northern Cagayan and Isabela provinces are among the sites where four new US military facilities would be built following a recent agreement made between US Defense Secretary John Lloyd Austin III and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the former’s recent official visit to the country.

Zambales and Palawan, both facing the West Philippine Sea, are the two other provinces.

Five US Joint Special Operations Task Forces groups are currently operating inside Armed Forces of the Philippine camps as part of Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines program, which would be increased to nine should the agreement push through.

Austin’s visit coincided with bombing operations conducted by the Tactical Operation Group 2 of the Philippine Air Force while the 501st Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) conducted ground military operations at Sitio Birao, Barangay Hacienda Intal of Baggao last February 2.

The operations followed a gunfight between the 95th IBPA and communist fighters under the Henry Abraham Command of the New People’s Army.

Both sides reported no casualties in the incident.

Bombo Radyo-Tuguegarao reported that 149 families of 272 civilians were forced to evacuate due to the operations and bombings.

Meanwhile, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba expressed his opposition to the establishment of foreign military facilities in his province.

He said in a radio interview that Cagayan Province does not need to be a site for new US military operations in the country.

‘Economic plunder’

Aside from threats posed by more soldiers in farming communities, UMA said increased US military presence also means that the foreign country wants to maintain its dominance on mining and plantation businesses in the Philippines.

Lozande said that through land monopoly, US corporations have long extracted raw materials from the Philippines for their industries, holding back the Philippines’ own industrialization.

“Lands that ought to be devoted to domestic food production…were held hostage by a plantation system equally beholden to corporate interests, churning out high-value crops in demand in the US-dominated world market rather than yielding food staples like rice,” Lozande added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)