DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, an umbrella group of Philippine nationalists and anti-US organizations said on Tuesday that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is “bending backward” to accede to the demands of pro-US policies as the first joint PHL-US military “Balikatan” exercises officially opened on Monday.
“In allowing the war games to proceed, Duterte is bending backwards to accede to the demands of the pro-US sections of the Philippine military. Duterte remains concerned with the support of the AFP. The Balikatan runs counter to Duterte’s vow to uphold an independent foreign policy. It falls right into the US agenda of projecting its military power in the region,” Bayan said in statement.
The opening of this year’s 33rd annual military exercises between the United States and the Philippines at Camp Aguinaldo was led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The PHL-US Balikatan military exercise will run from May 8 to 19 with 5, 400 troops from US, 80 troops from Australia and 20 troops from Japan are expected to participate.
The Balikatan 2017 will not be focusing on maritime security as part of the adjustments set by the President. Instead the joint military exercises will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, among others.
“The shift from maritime exercises to humanitarian assistance and disaster response does not make the current iteration of the Balikatan exercises any less violative of our sovereignty. Neither does it make the current Balikatan exercises any less in the service of US imperialist agenda in the region,” said Bayan.
Bayan added that the Balikatan 2017 “must be seen in the context of US regional dominance, which also run counter to Philippine interests. The US wants to drag us into regional conflicts not of our choosing.”
The group warned that the US’ conflict with China and North Korea are expected to intensify.
“The US seeks interoperability between their armed forces and ours so that they can involve the AFP in US-instigated conflicts. The claim that the US also wants the assist in counter-terrorism also lays the basis for increased US intervention in Philippine domestic affairs,” it said.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate has called on the President to pursue his promised independent foreign policy, especially of ending the continued presence of American troops in the country.
“Last year, the President previously said that he already wanted this annual activity scrapped when he threatened to cut ties with the United States and there is a high expectation among our people for the fulfillment of the said promise,” he added.
“Pres. Duterte should not listen to the militarists in his Cabinet who are all schooled in pro-US policies even if they are detrimental to our sovereignty and our people,” said Zarate. (davaotoday.com)