ILOILO CITY – Progressive groups in Iloilo register their strong opposition to the biggest Balikatan Exercises, which started today, April 22, and will end on May 10, 2024.

More than 16,000 American and Filipino troops will participate in said war games, which will be held in Palawan and Batanes. Australian Defence Forces and, for the first time, the French Navy will also participate in said exercises. Moreover, 14 nations (Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) are also expected to observe said exercises.

According to AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, the Balikatan exercise is held every year to strengthen the military’s defense capabilities and alliances. This includes command control training, field training, and humanitarian civic assistance. Part of the training is the holding of the joint sailing exercise in the exclusive economic zone or EEZ of the Philippines.

In a Joint Vision Statement between the Philippines, the US, and Japan, said countries will continue to have more military collaborations. In said joint statement, the three countries expressed their “serious concerns about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) dangerous and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea”.

In a statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Panay said that these US-initiated exercises can provoke war with China in the West Philippine Sea.

“In the context of China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, this Balikatan is an obvious provocation to war. The present Marcos Jr. administration, by hosting the Balikatan is courting danger by willingly making the country a pawn in the imperialist war waged by the United States,” said BAYAN-Panay.

The group also pointed out that despite decades of presence of US military bases and forces in the country, the military’s capability was not modernized nor upgraded. The group, however, said that the government should not let either the country be elbowed by China.

“We are not saying that we should just allow China to elbow us in the West Philippine Sea. We say our country should not be used to ignite a war between imperialist powers and be entrapped in a war to be waged by the US”, said BAYAN-Panay.

To BAYAN-Panay, the Philippine government led by Marcos Jr. should resort to diplomatic means to stop China’s aggression instead of entrusting the country’s sovereignty and defense to other countries like the US.

BAYAN-Panay calls to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)./PT


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