Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Written early this year. In reposting this article, I dedicate it to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton….

Today we condemn the continuation of the joint military exercises between Philippine and United States troops in the Bicol region. The resumption of the so-called Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) exercises clearly indicates that President Barack Obama has not fundamentally revised the foreign policy of his predecessor. The U.S. continues to use its military power to enhance its geopolitical interests in the world. It ignores the sovereignty of smaller and weaker nations by arrogantly deploying its war machines in these territories. It props up tyrants and corrupt leaders who are willing to accommodate its imperialist machinations.

The Balikatan is a shameful form of military intervention of the U.S. in the Philippines. More than 6,000 U.S. troops and 2,500 Filipino soldiers will participate in the joint war games which will be conducted in the provinces of Albay, Sorsogon, and Masbate. Nuclear-powered U.S. warships with F-16 fighter jets are expected to dock in the waters of Bicol region. The Balikatan once again highlights the semi-colonial status of the Philippines. It points to the highly unequal and grossly unjust relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines.

The U.S. and Philippine authorities insult the people when they continue to insist that the exercises will only involve humanitarian missions in the impoverished provinces of Bicol. The media frenzy surrounding the medical missions and civic projects of the US military personnel are part of a devious ploy to obscure the fact that U.S. soldiers are directly involved in combat operations in the Philippines.

If conducting humanitarian missions is the true objective of the U.S. military, why did they send an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in the Bicol region? A Predator-type drone (read: spy plane) crash landed in the towns of Esperanza and Pio V. Corpuz in Masbate last January. If the U.S. military only wanted to build roads, schools and water systems in Albay, why did a U.S. naval officer visited several hospitals in the province last January and asked health care personnel if they had orthopedic facilities?

The presence of U.S. troops in the Bicol region is not helping the local population. In fact, the arrival of the foreign troops has exacerbated the social and economic ills in the region. Early this month, a Philippine Senator exposed that two batches of 8 to 10 women were being given nightly to U.S. soldiers who were stationed in Legazpi City. A fish ban was enforced by the government for six months in the coastal villages where U.S. troops are expected to visit. This will destroy the livelihood of thousands of fisherfolks in the towns of Malinao, Malilipot, Bacacay and Manito in the province of Albay.

To protect their very important armed guests from rebel attacks, the 901st Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has conducted “clearing operations” in several remote villages in Bicol. These have displaced hundreds of peasant villagers. In Ligao City an infant girl was killed and 6 other children were injured after the military fired indiscriminate gunshots in Barangay Balanac. How many more innocent civilians will be killed and harmed in order to secure the safety of visiting U.S. soldiers?

It has been established through fact-finding investigations that U.S. troops have participated in actual combat operations in previous Balikatan war games in Mindanao. This year’s Balikatan in the Bicol region would involve U.S. soldiers in the Philippine military’s anti-insurgency campaign. Bicol is a known communist hotbed in the country. U.S. troops are expected to join Filipino soldiers in terrorizing local inhabitants who are accused of sympathizing with communist rebels. This will worsen the human rights situation in the region.

The Balikatan is most enthusiastically supported by the puppet Arroyo government because it is a source of corruption. The Philippines receives $30 million annually in military grants through the Visiting Forces Agreement. The funds are used by Arroyo to bribe military generals in exchange for their support for her unpopular government. Arroyo also uses the Balikatan to seek the approval of the U.S. for her desire to remain in power until and maybe even beyond 2010.

The Balikatan does not serve the interests of the American and Filipino people in general. It is endorsed by power-obsessed politicians and human rights violators in the Philippines who represent the exploitative ruling class, and by an imperialist power which intends to strengthen its hegemony in this part of the world.

Today we demand the U.S. government to end its military presence and intervention in the Philippines. We demand that tax dollars should not be spent on military aid for the Philippines. We demand the cancellation of the commitment made by the U.S. government to give $400 million to the Philippine military over a ten-year period. This large amount of money should be used to improve the social welfare of ordinary citizens. It should not be allotted to aid repressive governments like the Arroyo regime.

Today we demand the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. This onerous treaty legitimizes the presence of U.S. troops in the Philippines. This violates the national sovereignty of the Philippines. The VFA provides legal protection for U.S. soldiers who commit crimes while on duty in the Philippines. The VFA gives the U.S. military the right to occupy any part of the Philippines over an indefinite period of time. For example, the U.S. military has ‘permanently occupied’ Camp Navarro in Zamboanga for the past six years.

Today we salute the Filipino people who have steadfastly challenged and resisted U.S. imperialism in the Philippines. We laud the efforts of various groups which continue to oppose the presence of U.S. troops in Bicol and other parts of the country.

Today we affirm our dedication to advance the national democratic aspirations of the Filipino people.

Stop Balikatan! Pull-out U.S. troops now!
No to U.S. military intervention in the Philippines!
Stop giving military aid to the Philippines!
Down with Imperialism!

Related articles:

U.S. intervention in the Philippines
Generation Peace

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