Balikatan exercises trample on Philippine sovereignty and security

This article is available in Pilipino

In collusion with the Marcos regime and its armed forces, the US government and military showed utter contempt for Philippine sovereignty and security when it used the country as a launching pad for its inordinate display of firepower to serve its obsession with provoking a war with its imperialist rival China.

The large-scale Balikatan war exercises conducted on Philippine land and territorial waters only served to further raise the temperature of military conflict in Asia, particularly in the South China Sea.

The Party and the Filipino people condemn the Marcos regime for allowing the US and its allies to use the country’s territorial waters for war maneuvers. Conducting these so-called “freedom of navigation operations” from Philippine waters further pushes the country into the vortex of growing conflict, and increases the danger of being dragged into an inter-imperialist war.

We must condemn the US and Philippine armed forces for using the shores of Rizal town in Palawan to fire several rockets from US HIMARS missile launchers into the waters of the South China Sea, purportedly against an intruding force, with a clear allusion against China.

The Party likewise denounces the US and Philippine military for mounting their howitzers and other weapons at the sand dunes of Laoag to turn the northern coasts of the Philippines into a firing range where a “made in China” ship of an “imaginary enemy” was used as target for artillery and aerial bombs. The live-fire exercises, billed as the “climax” of the Balikatan war games, are clearly aimed at antagonizing and provoking China, raising tensions, and hindering diplomatic and peaceful efforts to resolve disputes.

The Party condemns the US military for flying low its jet fighters, which not only violated the country’s sovereign airspace, but also caused panic and trauma among residents in the northern towns and provinces of the Philippines.

The Party condemns the Balikatan war games for disrupting the livelihood of tens of thousands of people, especially fisherfolk along Palawan and the western coastal provinces of Luzon, who were driven away from their fishing grounds by the AFP’s enforcements of a “no sail” fishing ban, leaving them without income for several weeks. The Balikatan war games also saw a total disregard for the environment with rockets being fired, bombs being exploded and US warships dumping its toxic waste on Philippine waters.

The Balikatan war exercises were conducted alongside a psywar campaign by the US and the AFP to varnish and glorify the image of the brutal US war machine. The US is using the strategy of shock and awe to manipulate the mindset of the Filipino people. Local news reports are being shaped by US narratives, and carry the language and phraseologies promoted by the US government and echoed by defense and military officials of the Marcos government. Not a few Filipino journalists, academics and opinion makers–consciously or unconsciously, well-meaning or not–are promoting US-fueled Sinophobia among Filipinos. On various platforms, US imperialism is being depicted as a “big brother” and “defender.” Attention is being drawn away from the fact that across the world, the US is being condemned for its direct culpability in the genocide being carried out by Israel against the Palestinian people, or in prolonging the war in Ukraine by pouring weapons into its proxy.

This year’s Balikatan exercises by the US military, the largest to date, show the rising tempo of US military intervention in Asia, along with its “first island chain” geopolitical strategy to contain or prevent the expansion of China’s economic and military power. We are in the latest phase of the US “pivot to Asia” which it declared in 2011, in order to secure and expand its economic interests. Since then, the US has heightened its military presence from Japan to Australia, as well as in Pacific countries. In line with its strategy, the US has strengthened its military presence in the Philippines by increasing the number of military bases, aka EDCA sites, across the Philippines. Behind the veil of non-stop military “exercises,” the US military continues to maintain a permanent presence in the Philippines, strengthening its military foothold in the country.

China has become increasingly antagonistic and aggressive in countering growing US military presence, saber-rattling and war provocations. It has so far refused to cross the red line of armed confrontation with either the US or the Philippine military by using so-called “gray tactics,” but has aggrieved the Filipino people by denying Filipino fishermen access from their traditional and shared fishing grounds in the Scarborough Shoal. It has also water-bombed Philippine Coast Guard and civilian vessels, claiming their “supply missions” were violating its “gentleman’s agreement” with the Duterte and Marcos regimes.

Heightened US military presence and intensified intervention in the South China Sea, in collusion with the AFP, must be vigorously denounced because these impede diplomatic, non-antagonistic and peaceful means of settling disputes in the South China Sea. In order to pursue non-military solutions to these disputes, we must also oppose the steady and large presence of Chinese military and paramilitary vessels in the South China Sea, especially those within the exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf of the Philippines.

The Marcos regime’s alignment and subservience to the war-obsessed US imperialists further tramples on Philippine sovereignty and threatens the country’s security. The puppet Marcos proves that an independent foreign policy cannot be realized under the current semicolonial and semifeudal system, and the class rule of big bourgeois compradors and big landlords.

Amid intensifying US war preparations and provocations and rising dangers of the Philippines being dragged into an inter-imperialist war, the Party calls on the Filipino people to stand united and fight for genuine national freedom. Only by liberating the Philippines from the clutches of US imperialism can the Filipino people have the power to shape its own history and create a society that is prosperous and just.

Balikatan exercises trample on Philippine sovereignty and security