US drags Filipinos into war with Balikatan in Mavulis Island, militarization in Cagayan

This article is available in Pilipino

Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Commander Lt Gen Fernyl Buca, DND Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and AFP Chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. visited Mavulis and Basco, the northernmost islands of the Philippines on February 6, in preparation for Balikatan this April.

Part of Itbayat, Batanes, these islands are only 142 kilometers from Cape Eluanbi, the southern tip of Taiwan, making it closer to Taiwan than to mainland Luzon. The US military forces’ launching of war games there is a clear provocation and challenge to China, and is part of the US’s push for Taiwan to break away from China. This is contrary to the “one China policy” diploatic policy that both the US and the Philippines supposedly recognize.

In October 2023, the AFP inaugurated the Mavulis Island detachment, supposedly to strengthen the defense in Northern Luzon. Buca then declared that the detachment was established to prepare for the change of military operations from internal security to external defense. This was done in accordance with the preparation for the holding of Balikatan 39-2024.

Apart from Mavulis, the AFP is also building a Naval Forward Operating Base on Batan Island. Reports say it will also build a “civilian sea port” on the island, which American soldiers will construct this April. These facilities are in addition to the existing US military camp in Calayan island and “EDCA sites” in Lallo and Sta. Ana, Cagayan. Not far from these two military bases is another “EDCA site” in Gamu, Isabela. With these additions, US bases and facilities now riddled this northern part of Luzon, which is closest to Taiwan.

Not yet contented, the US, in cahoots with the Marcos regime, also wants to turn the Ivatans and residents of Batanes into cannon fodder by drafting them as army reservists. The latest reports say that 109 reservists have been trained to meet China’s bombs or bullets when the US launches its war.

China has previously warned the Philippines to stop participating in the US forces’ maneuvers and interfering in the internal affairs of Taiwan and China. But instead of taking heed, Marcos and the AFP further dragged the country and the entire people into the possibility of an armed confrontation between the US and China.

The people of Batanes are very concerned that the Philippines is dragged in the US’s intensifying conflict with China. When Balikatan was launched here in 2023, Batanes residents went into panic buying after learning that thousands of American soldiers were arriving on their island, and worried that war would break out.

The upcoming Balikatan is a big threat to the livelihood of the Ivatans and Cagayanons. This causes more unease in their communities. Presently, they are suffering low fish catch due to El Nino and offshore mining. They know that even more of them will lose their livelihood if American troops use the seas for amphibious exercises and displays of force using cannons, tanks and warships. This has been their experience when Claveria, Aparri, Calayan Island and Sta. Ana, Cagayan were transformed into Balikatan launching pads.

They also fear that the residents and fisherfolk in Batanes and Cagayan will be restricted, similar to what is happening to fisherfolk in Palawan and other areas in the West Philippine Sea.

Hosted by: Baringkuas, revolutionary newspaper of the people of Cagayan, January-March 2024

AB: US drags Filipinos into war with Balikatan in Mavulis Island, militarization in Cagayan