Bayan asks: Why hold Balikatan in May when VFA is being terminated?
MANILA, Philippines – The Balikatan military exercises between the Philippines and the United States should no longer continue as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries is being terminated, the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said on Thursday.
In a statement, Bayan insists that there is no basis for U.S. troops to stay in the country for the war exercises, given that President Rodrigo Duterte has already decided to terminate the treaty.
“What is the purpose of holding the Balikatan war games in May when there will be no VFA in the future? The whole idea of interoperability of troops will be rendered useless as there will be no US troops in the Philippines in the near future,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes asked.
“Without the VFA , there is no basis for U.S. troops to be here. Given these developments, the upcoming Balikatan war games would, therefore, be a waste of resources and man-hours. It will be unnecessary,” he added.
On Wednesday, it was reported that 11,000 troops from both sides would take part in the possibly last Balikatan exercises in May 2020. However, according to Reyes, these activities should not continue even if the 180-day transition period of the VFA termination is not complete.
“Even if the VFA termination has yet to take effect given the 180-day transition period, the Philippine government should be unequivocal in its stand against U.S. military presence in our country,” he claimed
“U.S. military exercises in the Philippines have been used for U.S. power-projection and prolonged military presence and direct military intervention. From the time of Balikatan 02-1, these exercises were used for U.S. intervention in domestic affairs. Abuses have been recorded when U.S. troops hold war games in our country,” he added.
While Bayan and other left-leaning groups have been generally critical of President Duterte’s administration, they lauded his move to withdraw from the agreement, as they believe that the country should be free of U.S. intervention.
However, several opposition personalities and observers noted that the Philippines may be vulnerable to terrorist attacks without the VFA.
Others, like former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio warned that this may pave the way for China’s more aggressive stance in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) islands, as the VFA acts a deterrent for the Asian superpower’s push in the region.
The VFA issue started after the U.S. visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa — Duterte’s close ally and former police chief was revoked. Duterte then threatened U.S. officials to reinstate the visa, or else the VFA will be terminated.
Analysts believe that Dela Rosa was stripped of his visa for his role in the bloody war against illegal drugs, and for the detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima.
Edited by MUF
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