“The US aims to firm up its military foothold in the country, which serves as a base for forward deployment of military forces in line with its hegemonic ‘Asia pivot’ to secure for itself the trade routes, sources of cheap labor and areas for investments in the Asia-Pacific countries.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The Communist Party of the Philippines directed its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to conduct tactical offensives on the US military bases that will soon rise in at least five locations in the country.
The CPP issued the statement April 4, at the start of the 2016 PH-US Balikatan joint military exercises, which saw the entry of some 5,000 US troops, war vehicles and machineries. The exercises ended today, April 15, leaving behind some 200 US service members and patrol planes that will remain stationed in the former Clark Air Base in Pampanga– the first batch of troops to officially base in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
“The New People’s Army must contribute to the struggle against US military intervention and US military bases by, among others, directing tactical offensives against the host camps and the treacherous armed forces that provide perimeter security to the interventionist troops,” the statement said.
The CPP condemned the Balikatan exercises, and said these aim to “speed up” the construction of the US military bases. It cited that the US troops also brought in “an army of backhoes and bulldozers,” along with its modern weapons.
The 32nd PH-US Balikatan military exercises held from April 4 to 15 was the biggest, with some 9,000 participants: 5,000 US troops, 3,500 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and 80 from the Australian Defense Force. The simultaneous war games were conducted in Luzon, Palawan and Panay. One of the highlights of the training was the firing of the US High Mobile Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
The exercises also had the biggest number of observers coming from 12 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, South Korea, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, and Japan. Members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force arrived in the country on board a submarine and two destroyers.
In a news report, visiting US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the US military presence is meant to “contribute to the safety and security of the region’s waters.”
The Balikatan included disaster and crisis response trainings, as well as humanitarian and civic missions. But the CPP said these were just “pretext to heighten US military intervention and further entrench the US military in the country.”
“Surely, these equipment will be used beyond the publicity-stunt construction and repair of three elementary school buildings in certain towns of Capiz and Iloilo,” the group said.
The agreed locations for the US military bases are in the following: Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan De Oro City, Misamis Oriental.
The CPP said US military presence is stirring up China outside, even as it is also meant to suppress the national liberation movement inside, said the CPP.
“With the Aquino regime, the US has been provoking China to become more aggressive by deploying its war machinery around the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). Filipino and American officials of the Balikatan have denied that the joint war games are intended as a show of force against China.
The CPP said the US aims to firm up its “military foothold” in the country, which serves as a base for forward deployment of military forces “in line with its hegemonic ‘Asia pivot’ to secure for itself the trade routes, sources of cheap labor and areas for investments in the Asia-Pacific countries.”
‘Break free from the US’
Progressive groups condemned the Balikatan exercises in protests at the US embassy on April 4. Despite the continuous presence of, and joint military trainings with US troops, the Armed Forces of the Philippines remains backward and incapable of defending Philippine territory, the groups had said.
Salvador France, vice chairperson of Pamalakaya and convener of the broad alliance Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) said the war games also means disruption on the livelihood of fisherfolk, as they are banned from fishing in the vicinity of the exercises to secure the American servicemen.
Presidential candidate Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago also criticized the war games, and said Philippine government should “break free from the US.”
“Instead of relying on the U.S., or acquiescing to China, the Philippines will have to augment its surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence-gathering capabilities in order to effectively monitor developments in its surrounding waters, preferably at least within its 200-nautical-miles exclusive economic zone,” Santiago said in a statement.