Cope Thunder exercises strike fear among Cagayanons

This article is available in Pilipino

Although Balikatan 2024 has not yet officially opened, Cope Thunder exercises launched by the US Air Force and Tactical Operations Group (TOG) troops on April 17 have already sown fear and distress among the citizens of Cagayan and Apayao. Residents of Gattaran, Sto Niño, and Lasam in Cagayan said low-flying jet fighters caused mayhem in schools especially in daycares and kindergartens sending children scampering back to their homes. Infants were also awakened, livelihoods were disrupted, and even domestic animals were frightened and distressed.

Residents complained that they were not informed in advance, causing people to run and stumble in extreme fear since the exhibitions were staged right near schools and barangay halls. A mother said her 7-year-old son prevented her from leaving the house fearing she would be hit by a bomb. They also complained about the extremely loud rumble and deafening noise of jet fighters. “My chest felt like it was going to explode when it passed over us,” said one.

Residents could not help but think of the possibility of a real war breaking out especially since the AFP has been actively recruiting in the barrios, even among the elderly. “This was just a drill, but what if it’s true,” worried a resident. Another commented that American soldiers will surely leave many women pregnant because of the presence of military bases in their area.

People in these areas are traumatized since these were also bombed by the 5th ID and TOG2 last year. It will be recalled that the residents of Sto Niño were evacuated in April 2022 in the middle of Holy Week when an airstrike using an OV10-Bronco was conducted to cover up the massacre of three Red fighters in Piat.

Baggao residents also suffered anxiety during Balikatan 2022. “We ran in fear. We thought we were going to be bombed. It seemed our roofs would tear off because the jet fighters flew so low and so close to the houses,” said a farmer.

Cope Thunder exercises strike fear among Cagayanons