Joint US-PH Balikatan exercises will escalate human rights abuses – Bayan Panay

ILOILO City – Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Panay said today in a statement that Balikatan exercises between US and Philippine military troops will only escalate fear and human rights abuses against the Filipino people.

“Balikatan is not just about military training exercises. This activity will enhance US surveillance in the island region. In an attempt to reclaim the 3rd Infantry Division camp in Jamindan, this exercise will have an impact on indigenous peoples’ areas and will escalate the fear they are experiencing,” Bayan Panay deputy secretary general Reylan Vergara said.

Balikatan exercises according to reports shall commence on March 28 until April 16 to be conducted in Antique province.

Antique and adjacent towns of Calinog in Iloilo, and Tapaz and Jamindan in Capiz are indigenous peoples’ areas and are being subjects of the state counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan patterned from the US counter-insurgency guide.

Vergara added that these areas are already being militarized because of various government projects that will be implemented on their ancestral domain, such as the National Greening Program (NGP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the two mega dams in the rivers of Jalaur and Pan-ay spearheaded by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“Balikatan is clearly equivalent to intensified militarization and the targets include those opposing the government and its projects,” Vergara added.

Aside from fear, according to Vergara, the joint military exercise is also geared towards conditioning the people’s mind giving a positive impression of US forces on Philippine territory which is a violation of our sovereignty.

“This will also be a way for the US to further dominate and control our country militarily. And surely, human rights violations are likely to increase as exemplified by previous Balikatan exercises,” said Vergara.

“This Balikatan exercise is a mockery of the peoples’ victory over the dismantling of the US military bases in 1991. The late senators Jovito R. Salonga and Noynoy Aquino’s uncle Agapito Aquino are likely turning on their graves because of this,” added Vergara.

In September 16, 1991, in a vote of 12 to 11, the Senate rejected the renewal of the treaty that would allow US troops for another 10 years basing in the country. The treaty hence expired on that very same day.

“Our people will gain nothing from this exercise. Our funds, that will only be wasted, can be used instead as food subsidy to our hungry citizens considering the impact of El Nino these days.”

Bayan Panay called for the people to expose and oppose the Balikatan exercises and to report immediately any human rights abuses and violations by the US and Philippine military troops./PT


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