Groups from various sectors trooped to the Department of National Defense (DND) to protest the proposed US military facilities in the country. Four more were eyed by the US and Philippine governments, in addition to the five initially targeted under Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). 

The protest coincided with the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the country to meet Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr to negotiate further on existing US-PH military pacts. Austin met Ferdinand Marcos Jr at the presidential palace before the meeting his counterpart. 

US-PH military pacts 

The Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the US continued after the previous administration of Rodrigo Duterte recalled all actions to revoke it. The VFA was said to operationalize the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) where the two countries committed to defend each other in wars of aggression with another country. 

The upcoming Balikatan military exercises under the VFA are set on April 24 to 27 this year, to be participated by at least 16,000 American and Filipino troops, the biggest since the pandemic.

Also, the EDCA was signed in April 2014 under the Benigno Aquino III administration. 

Through EDCA, the US was allowed to build facilities inside Philippine military bases for joint military exercises like the Balikatan, as well as storage, importation and exportation of military equipment and supplies, all said to benefit the modernization of the Philippines’ armed forces. 

A total of five locations were initially eyed: Cesar Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan De Oro, Antonio Bautista Airbase in Palawan, and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu. 

According to the two defense secretaries, US had allocated more than $82 million in infrastructure investments at the existing military bases. Additional sites considered include those near Taiwan, and the western provinces of Palawan and Zambales, which face heightened tensions with China. 

“We can only imagine the consequences of two rival superpowers, China and US, flaunting their military might in our country,” said Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) in a statement.

The fisherfolk group noted that the country’s territorial waters are already militarized by China. An expansion of US military bases will only escalate tensions between the two rival countries.

League of Filipino Students National Capital Region said that these US and Chinese intrusions into Philippine sovereignty only advance the irinterests to control the country’s military, politics and economy. 

They added that the continuation of EDCA will surely drag the Philippines into the middle of a US-provoked war with China, with the latter’s increasing military presence in the West Philippine Sea and the tensions between the two superpowers over Taiwan. 

The youth group also scored the heinous record of exploitation and human rights violations that the US has committed in the Philippines, from its colonial history to the end of the colonial US bases in 1991 to the current VFA. The group said that the killing of trans woman Jennifer Laude while the perpetrator US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton “getting away with murder” should “serve as a reminder of the atrocities committed when the government allowed the US to again soil its sovereignty.”


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