Largest Ever U.S./Philippines Military Exercises Target Filipino People and China

Protest against Balikatan U.S./Philippines Joint Military exercises, May 2018.

The 37th Balikatan U.S./Philippines Joint Military exercises have begun in and around the Philippines and will continue until April 8. It is the largest military exercise conducted between the U.S. military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Balikatan is a Tagalog word meaning "shoulder to shoulder." Since 2014, Australia has also participated in these provocative military drills aimed at containing China in the Indo-Pacific Region as well as suppression of the revolutionary movement of the Filipino people for their national liberation. Canada also has a hand in this, having trained hundreds of Filipino military personnel in Canadian bases since 2014.

This year's war drills, the largest to date, will involve 3,800 Filipino soldiers and 8,100 U.S. troops and a large number of artillery, planes and ships. According to Major General Charlton Sean Gaerlan, the AFP director, "Exercise Balikatan is a testament to the strength of the Philippines and United States' security relationship. The experience gained in the exercise complements our security cooperation endeavors and will help to enhance existing mutual security efforts."

Major General Jay Bargeron, Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Division which is the main U.S. force taking part in Balikatan, adds "During Balikatan, the U.S. military and AFP will train together to expand and advance shared tactics, techniques, and procedures that strengthen our response capabilities and readiness for real-world challenges, the friendship and trust between our forces will enable us to accomplish any mission across the spectrum of military operations."

Balikatan and other joint military exercises in the Philippines led by the U.S. imperialists are justified under the Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT) signed between the Philippines and the U.S. on August 30, 1951, to consolidate the use of the Philippines as a forward staging ground in the U.S. war of aggression in Korea, and to maintain U.S. domination of the Philippines. The Philippines was also used as a staging ground in the U.S. war against the Vietnamese people, the First Gulf War and other wars.

A report in the U.S. military's Stars and Stripes magazine quotes Rand Corporation Senior Defence Analyst Derek Grossman as saying: "U.S.-Philippine security engagement has strengthened recently. Russia's invasion of Ukraine provides impetus to get the relationship right. The counterpoint to Russia in the Indo-Pacific is China." The article notes that in March 2021, then U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander, Admiral Philip Davison had warned that China might attack Taiwan "in the next six years" based on its rapid military expansion. The U.S. promotes this disinformation about China attacking Taiwan to justify its military presence in the region and prepare the grounds for increased measures and attacks against China.

Also significant is that the Balikatan 2022 will include U.S. and Philippines military jointly "practicing counterterrorism and urban warfare with local forces at Crow Valley and Fort Magsaysay." Who is this aimed at if not the revolutionary movement of the Filipino people?

Balikatan 2022 is to counter not only China in the Asia Pacific Region, but also to suppress the revolutionary movement of the Filipino people led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army. It is also aimed at using the entire Philippines as a forward staging ground to project U.S. power and increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific as part of its dangerous brinkmanship against Russia and China.

That these exercises are being held weeks from the May 9 presidential elections in the Philippines is also to project U.S. dominance of the Philippines against the efforts of the Filipino people to use the elections to advance their interests.

For these reasons the people of the Philippines have continuously opposed all U.S./Philippine war exercises, demanded an end to the U.S. military presence in their country, as well as the scrapping of the MDT of 1951. They continue courageously and heroically to organize to get rid of the U.S. military and all foreign domination of their nation and to affirm their sovereignty and independence, thus making an important contribution to humanity's fight for peace in the world.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 4 - April 3, 2022

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