Protest greets start of Balikatan war games
MANILA, Philippines–As the annual Balikatan war games officially kicked off Monday, militant groups blasted anew the presence of about 2,500 American troops a week after the Philippine-US defense pact signed.
Protesters, who assembled in front of the Department of National Defense headquarters in Quezon City, said the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) would lead to the establishment of permanent US bases in the Philippines.
“The US sees the EDCA as an opportunity for forward-basing of troops and equipment. They look their presence here as being permanent,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.
“The EDCA, like the VFA, will lead to the permanent presence of foreign troops in our country,” Reyes stressed.
Last April 28, EDCA was signed on the day when US President Barack Obama arrived in Manila for state visit.
According to Reyes, EDCA calls for the opening of five Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) military facilities to US forces as the Balikatan Exercises will be a year-round event.
As EDCA assures the rotation of US troops in the country, the militant leader said this would transform into permanent stationing of troops for the entire year.
“The Balikatan, like EDCA, does not benefit the Filipino people. Our Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not modernize just because we conduct war games with US forces,” he added.
For the Kilusang Mayo Uno, it emphasized that it would intensify their “bigger and bolder” protests until the EDCA will be junked.
“Filipino workers and people will not allow our country to be re-occupied by the US,” KMU Secretary General Roger Soluta said.
“We patriotic workers are determined to repeat and intensify the anti-US Bases protests during the 90s to push for the immediate junking of the EDCA and to drive away the thousands of US troops already stationed in our country today,” Soluta added.
Joining the 2,500 American soldiers are 3,000 Philippine military men.
The joint Philippine-US troops will be undergoing field training exercises at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Crow Valley in Tarlac and at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
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