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Balikatan: US imperialists lead Filipino and Australian “allies” in war preparations

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Nick G.

The 31st annual Balikatan war games are underway.

From April 20 to 30, US, Philippines and Australian troops will participate in three major exercises, namely Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA), Command Post Exercise (CPX) and Field Training Exercises (FTX).

This is the biggest joint exercise between the US and the Philippines in 15 years and is twice the size of last year’s, indicating a stronger US presence in the region through its Pacific Pathways strategy.

A total of 6,656 American servicemen will participate in the drills, more than double the 2,500-strong contingent that joined last year and outnumbering its Filipino counterpart, which will consist of 5,023 soldiers.

The United States will be sending 76 air assets and three ships for the exercise while the Philippines will deploy 15 planes and one vessel.

The Australian Defense Force will also take part in the activity and will be sending 61 personnel and one aircraft.

US imperialists gearing up for war with China

Although the US has denied Balikatan is aimed at the Chinese, Filipino media see an obvious link.

“The Philippine military bared the details of the annual joint exercise a week after it reported that China is conducting reclamation and construction projects in at least seven reefs in the disputed Spratlys archipelago,” wrote the Philippines Star on April 6.

Progressive organisations have condemned the exercises. BAYAN, or New Patriotic Alliance, established in May 1985 at the height of the struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship, condemned the war games as “another affront to our sovereignty”.

“The US is only concerned with its own expansionist interests in Asia. Our national interest is not identical with US imperialist interests.

“Like vultures, the US is already encircling Mindanao, anticipating the conclusion of Aquino’s so-called peace pact that would allow foreign plunder of natural resources. The US military build-up in the area is tied to US economic interests in mining and oil and energy exploration.

“The Balikatan war games are a continuing reminder of the subservience of the Aquino regime to foreign dictates. It is this subservience that makes us weak as a nation. The Philippine government refuses to adopt an independent foreign policy. It refuses to assert economic sovereignty which will allow us to develop the capacity to defend our territorial waters. The Aquino government is a shameless puppet government.” 

Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno joined a march to the US Embassy on April 20 to condemn the Balikatan exercises.

KMU Chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog said “The US wants to continue with the Balikatan exercises and increase military presence in the Philippines in order to advance its own economic and geopolitical interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The Balikatan is not about defending Philippine territory. It is in fact violating Philippine territory. The US is only increasing tensions stemming from the territorial disputes because of its continued meddling,” stated Labog.

Australian troops: Gurkhas for the US empire

Balikatan has always been a bilateral activity between the US and the Philippines although the two countries also invite other countries as observers. Australia joined as an observer in 2013 following the Filipino Senate’s ratification of the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) with Australia in September 2012.

In 2014, 60 ADF personnel took part as participants for the first time.  The participation of Australia was "monumental," said Major General Richard Simcok II, deputy commander of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific. "Hopefully we'll do more with regional allies and partners."

Only the US and Australia have treaties with the Philippines that allow their troops to visit the country for joint activities. 

None of this in any way relates to the defense of Australia.  In keeping with our support for US and British aggression in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, Australian governments are creating a reputation for the Australian Defense Forces as little more than Gurkhas for the US empire.

They are supporting the integration of the ADF into the US military machine with a guided-missile frigate in active deployment as part of the George Washington Carrier Strike Force and Australian Major General Burr as deputy commander of the US Army Pacific.

They are demanding interoperability of Australian and Japanese submarines under US command and pressured the Coalition to break its election promise to build 12 new submarines in Australia in favour of a Japanese build in Japan.

 Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, public affairs chief of the Philippine military, emphasized on April 6 that the Balikatan exercises were “designed to enhance the capabilities, tactics and interoperability” of the participants.

Independence, not “interoperability

The Australian and Filipino people are neighbours and respect each other’s sovereignty and independence. 

It is in the interests of both peoples to raise the level of anti-imperialist solidarity that exists between them, to support each other’s movements for independence and socialism, and to abrogate all treaties and “defence” arrangements imposed by US imperialism.

Imperialist interoperability means the loss of all sovereignty on the part of a country subordinate to US imperialism.  It means shameful complicity in curtailing the independence of countries seeking to free themselves from the clutches of imperialism.

We demand the right to a free and independent foreign policy.

We demand the removal of factors causing tension in our region; we support the pursuit of solutions to international tensions based on mutual respect and cooperation.

Down with imperialism!

Long live the friendship of the peoples!


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