Protests meet first day of Balikatan in Laoag City

This article is available in Pilipino

A protest by fisherfolk and citizens of Laoag City greeted the first day of the Balikatan Exercises at the La Paz sand dunes in Laoag City on May 6.

On the morning of May 6, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Ilocos hung a placard at the entrance of barangay La Paz that read “NO TO BALIKATAN! THE PHILIPPINES IS OURS! US-CHINA OUT!”

Fisherfolk in the coastal areas of Metro La Paz, Metro Gabu and Caawacan in Laoag City complained about the No Sail Zone imposed on their fishing grounds in favor of the live fire exercises. The Fisherfolk Association ng Barangay Gabu Norte says a fisherman will lose up to ₱22,500-₱36,000 when prohibited from sailing for five to eight days. A fisherman can earn up to ₱4,500 a day.

In this regard, residents demanded compensation from the local government and to replace their lost income for five to eight days. Fisherfolk say the No Sail Zone imposed by Balikatan is a big loss to their livelihood. “Petroleum is very expensive, catches are few due to El Nino, then fishing is now even banned, we must be compensated,” they said.

Among those who protested on the first day of Balikatan in Laoag City was the Kaammoyo ti Kappia (KTK), a church organization that promotes true peace and human rights in Ilocos Norte.

KTK spokesperson Fr. Randy Manicap refuted the cover-up of Mayor Michael Marcos Keon (President Marcos’ first cousin) as well as Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc (Senator Imee Marcos’ son) that “there is nothing to worry about because there will be no war…” Fr. Manicap says the said war exercises are clearly a prelude or preparation for war between the two imperialist countries US and China.

“That there is nothing to fear is utterly false. US military bases are here in the Philippines and its war exercises are taking place here. If China is provoked, where will it attack if not in the Philippines?” said Fr. Manicap.

“Filipinos should not be dragged in imperialist wars. That is why military bases and military exercises should not be here, and the Mutual Defense Treaty, Visiting Forces Agreement and EDCA should be scrapped because they do not benefit the Filipino people, but instead render them vulnerable to the danger of imperialist wars. The sovereignty of the Philippines should be given highest value,” he said.

On the first day of Balikatan, the KTK group met with the fisherfolk and citizens of La Paz, Gabu and Caawacan to sympathize with them in the turmoil they suffer due to the heavy gunfire and tremors. Before this, the masses were already overwhelmed by the massive influx of Marines, Navy and Air Force soldiers and powerful weapons in their community.

Even before the Balikatan began, Ilocos Norte people and the patriotic organizations Bayan-Ilocos and Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon iti Ilocos Norte have already expressed their dismay and opposition to the consent by Mayor Keon and Governor Manotoc to the holding of Balikatan Exercises.

The LGU officials of the province, of Laoag city and barangay La Paz also complained because it was not coordinated with them and they also did not agree to hold the war games in the province, because it would risk the lives of the people and disrupt their livelihood. Keon and Manotoc tried to absolve themselves. Manotoc says the decision was not his.

Patriotic groups and masses in the Ilocos region vow to continue to hold protest actions during the Balikatan.

AB: Protests meet first day of Balikatan in Laoag City