April 12, 2012
The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in a press conference today announced that it would be spearheading a nationwide protest including a “Caravan kontra Balikatan” starting April 16 in Central Luzon and in Mindanao. The group is opposing plans to have more US military exercises in the country. It also warned the Aquino government against using a recent incident in Scarborough Shoal just off Zambales as a justification for allowing US involvement in territorial disputes with China.
What further piqued the militant group was a recent article appearing in the Marine Corps Times in the US which said that “the Philippines also are known for their raunchy party atmosphere… Places such as Olongapo and Angeles City feature notorious red-light districts where alcohol and scantily clad women have attracted many Marines and sailors over the years”.
“We oppose in no uncertain terms the holding of these US military exercises in Philippine territory. The latest Balikatan is a prelude to more exercises and increased US military presence in the Philippines. The PH government is practically inviting the US to station its troops in our country permanently. This is an affront to our sovereignty,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“The Philippines is not a playground for US troops. It is not a military outpost for US power projection and regional intervention. It is not a laboratory for US drone wars. We caution the Philippine government against using the latest incident in Scarborough Shoal as well as the Spratlys dispute to further justify US presence and intervention in the Philippines. That would be a grave mistake and would only complicate the territorial dispute,” Reyes said.
On April 16, several groups will be holding a caravan from Quezon City to Clark Airbase in Pampanga to protest the Balikatan war games. A much longer caravan or lakbayan will be held in Mindanao from April 16-20, passing through areas such as Zamboanga City where the US Joint Special Operations Task Force is based. Bayan USA meanwhile will lead protests in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco also on April 16.
On April 30, the secretaries of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of National Defense are to meet with their counterparts in the US State Department and Department of Defense to hammer out the terms for increased US presence in the Philippines. This will pave the way for increased exercises, rotational deployments and port calls by US warships.
More fun in the Philippines?
Bayan scored the article “Marines poised for more Philippine tours” appearing in the Marine Corps Times last April 8 which seemed to depict the Philippines as an ideal destination for sex-starved US Marines. Marine Corps Times is published by Gannett Government Media and describes itself as “the trusted, independent source for news and information for the Marine Corps community”.
“Whatever you heard was probably true, said Dave Francisco, a retired sergeant major whose off-duty experiences in the Philippines came during liberty calls with Marine units during western Pacific cruises with the Navy.“It was awesome. That’s what WestPac is: a lot of fun, a lot of good partying and a lot to do,” the article quoted Francisco.
“Aside from the military and political implications of hosting US troops, the Philippines also has to deal with the social costs such as rising sex trade and incidents of rape. The article shows how the US troops truly regard the Philippines and its people,” Reyes said.
“Not long ago, several US Marines on rest and recreation in Subic were accused of raping a Filipina,” he added.
The Marine Corps Times article also affirms that more US Marines will be visiting the Philippines given the changing focus of the US government towards Asia.
“Speaking March 29 at the Marine Corps Association Ground Logistics Awards dinner in Arlington, Va., Assistant Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford said that in coming years hundreds of Marines are expected to regularly deploy to the Philippines as part of the service’s growing focus on the Pacific,” the article said. ###