By VENMAR CECILLE
MANILA – A group of Filipino progressives assailed what it called as increased US military intervention in the Philippines.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III left for the Philippines and South Korea on Jan. 29, to “advance regional stability and further strengthen” its partnership with the two countries.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the visit coincides with the plan to further implement the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in the country with five agreed locations being readied.
Last November 2022, the Department of National Defense (DND) expressed its commitment to accelerate the EDCA projects with an allotment of USD 66.5 million. The projects include the building of military facilities in Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan De Oro; Antonio Bautista Airbase in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.
Bayan said this means that US troops may indefinitely station in the country.
“This is a throwback to the Cold War era when countries like the Philippines were used for US wars of aggression in Asia. It is a gross violation of our sovereignty,” Bayan said in a statement.
Under Article III, Section 1 of EDCA, US military forces are allowed to conduct the following activities: training, support, refueling of aircraft, bunkering of vessels, temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels, and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications; a preposition of equipment, supplies, and materiel; deploying forces and materiel; and other activities.
Bayan added that Filipinos will be holding the “shorter end of the stick” as the US military activities in the approved locations are free of charge; while the utilities, water, electricity, and radio frequencies are tax-exempted.
“In a time of great economic crisis and rising public debt, why are we giving these perks to the US? Why are Filipino taxpayers footing the bill for US intervention in the region?” the group said.
The US intervention and impending revival of US bases are most likely to fuel the tension between US and China, according to Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas last November 2022.
Gabriela Women’s Party filed House Resolution No. 20, which seeks to abrogate the EDCA, preventing the unbridled military operations of the US, which the group said has resulted in human rights abuses in the past.
However, the national government remains firm on continuing the agreement.
In the recently concluded Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD), both the Philippines and the US target the full implementation of EDCA, highlighting the expedited completion of the existing Agreed Locations and finalizing procedures for the adoption of the additional Agreed Locations.
Last year, Vice President Kamala Harris also paid a visit to the Philippines.
Read: On Kamala Harris’s visit: The cost of US-PH ‘friendly’ relations
“The revival of US bases in the Philippines raises tensions in the region and will escalate the rivalry between the US and China. What we should be doing is demilitarizing the West Philippine Sea and preventing an arms race in the region,” Bayan ended. (JJE, RVO)