U.S. and Philippines to Repeat Unwelcome Military War Games

April 4, 2016

The U.S. and the Philippines are planning 11 days of joint military war games from April 4. Some 5,000 U.S. troops are to take part in the "exercises," named Balikatan ("shoulder-to-shoulder"), which are being held on and near the Filipino islands of Palawan province.

As the first and biggest military power, U.S. imperialism repeatedly uses its massive military as an instrument of its aggressive foreign policy. The U.S. government is keeping its weapons at the ready and honing them in order to protect the empire of the U.S. multi-national corporations, which plunder the resources and super-exploit the labor of peoples throughout the world. To control sources of raw materials, maintain its strategic spheres of influence and domination, and protect its investments, U.S. imperialism, relies, in the final analysis on military might, including its policy of nuclear blackmail and intimidation.

The Balikatan war games are the 16th to be held between the two countries since 1996 and are the 16th to occur under the "Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)" which was ratified by the Filipino Senate in May of 1999.

In 1991, the Filipino Senate voted to cancel U.S. basing rights, but the Pentagon pushed very hard between the close of exercises in 1996 and 1999, in secret negotiations, for the passage of the VFA. The VFA called for the resumption of military training between the two countries and allowed partial basing rights in the Philippines for U.S. troops and warships. 24 years after the last U.S. base was closed, the Obama administration plans to establish 5 new shared bases in the Philippines, using a vaguely worded agreement with indefinite timeframes called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. This supplement to the VFA was secured through secret meetings with the U.S. National Security Council concluded in 2014.

The war games and the VFA are widely opposed by the Filipino people and are recognized as an assault on Filipino sovereignty and territorial integrity. Under the VFA, U.S. warships and their material, including nuclear weapons, can enter Filipino waters at will, free from inspection by Filipino authorities. The Filipino people are also outraged over the terms of the agreement which place U.S. personnel beyond the reach of the Philippine judicial system.

As has been the case for decades, there is also strong opposition to the war games by other countries in the region due to the fact that the exercises will be held near the Spratly archipelago which is claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. This year the Chinese Foreign Ministry again issued a statement warning that the scheduled exercises could destabilize the region. In a reckless response characteristic of Obama's "Asia-pivot," the U.S. Navy flaunted its preference for escalated tensions by announcing that it would not refrain from conducting provocative exercises within Chinese territorial waters.

The strengthening of U.S-Philippine military ties is part and parcel of U.S. imperialism's projection of military blackmail in the Asia-Pacific region at this time. The U.S. relies on its "forward military deployment" in the Pacific region as the key to projecting its influence and asserting its strategic interests throughout the region. Currently, the U.S. maintains some 80,000 regular U.S. troops permanently stationed on bases or on ships throughout the region.