The Armed Forces of the United States and the Philippines will be holding the 2023 Balikatan Exercises from April 11 to 28, 2023 in various provinces of the Philippines. These exercises are nothing but a blatant display of US imperialism’s military intervention and aggression in the country and region. They are aimed at strengthening the US domination and control over the land, resources, and people of the Philippines, and undermining the Filipino people’s sovereignty and self-determination.
This year’s Balikatan will be the largest joint military exercise between the Philippines and the US to date, with over 17,600 troops participating. This shows the escalation of US militarism and warmongering in Asia-Pacific, especially amid the rising tensions and conflicts with China and other rival powers. The US is using the Philippines as its pawn and base for its hegemonic interests and schemes, while trampling on the country’s national dignity and independence.
The Balikatan is also a violation of the human rights and democratic rights of the Filipino people. The presence of foreign troops in local communities poses a grave threat to safety, security, and welfare of the people. We have witnessed how these exercises have resulted in environmental destruction, displacement of indigenous peoples and peasants, sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children, extrajudicial killings, torture, harassment, and intimidation of activists and critics.
The Filipino people reject the false claims of the US and Philippine governments that the Balikatan is for their benefit and development. These exercises are not for humanitarian assistance or disaster relief, but for advancing the interests of the US military-industrial complex and its local lackeys. They are not for enhancing the Philippines’ defense capabilities or security cooperation, but for subverting the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In addition, we join the Filipino people in denouncing the Mutual Defense Treaty, Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which serve as legal bases for the Balikatan exercises and other forms of US military presence and intervention in the Philippines. The VFA is a one-sided agreement that grants special privileges and immunities to US personnel who commit crimes in their country, while depriving them of jurisdiction over them. The EDCA is an unconstitutional agreement that allows the US to establish de facto military bases in their territory without any rent or compensation. These agreements are detrimental to their national interest and security, and must be abrogated immediately.
With the recent announcement of four new locations, the US will gain access to Philippine military bases under the EDCA. These locations are strategically situated near Taiwan and the West Philippine Sea, where China has been asserting its expansive claims and militarizing disputed islands. The new locations are:
● Balabac Island in Palawan, which is close to the Spratly Islands where China has built military outposts on artificial islands
● Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan province, which is only 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s third-largest city
● Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan, which can accommodate large transport aircraft and serve as a staging area for US forces
● Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela, which is home to the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division and can host US ground troops
These new locations will increase the US military footprint and influence in the Philippines and the region, while exposing the Filipino people to greater risks of conflict and violence. The Filipino people do not want their country to be used as a pawn or a base by any foreign power that seeks to dominate and exploit them. We demand that the US respect their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and stop meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) calls on all democratic and progressive forces around the world to oppose the upcoming Balikatan Exercises and demand its immediate cancellation. We urge all peace-loving peoples to join the Filipino people in resisting US imperialism’s intervention and aggression in their country and region. We affirm our solidarity with all oppressed and exploited peoples who are fighting for liberation and emancipation from imperialist domination.
Down with US imperialism!
Long live international solidarity!
Advance the people’s struggle for self-determination!
10 April 2023