Fil-Ams protest US ‘ironclad’ alliance with the Philippines
April 13, 2024

By Kristine Villanueva

Washington D.C. – Over 100 Filipino-American activists staged protests outside the White House in Washington D.C. against the recent trilateral meeting between Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., US President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. 

The protests, led by BAYAN USA, were mounted concurrently in cities including Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu, to denounce what the activists describe as President Biden’s detrimental “ironclad alliance” with the Philippines.

The activists argue that Biden’s so-called alliance with the Philippines is playing a significant role in the latter’s worsening economic crisis, heightened foreign military presence, and ongoing climate issues. 

US military expansion slammed

During the summit, President Biden discussed a budget request of $128 million for infrastructure on Philippine military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Norynne Caleja of Malaya D.C. chapter, a Philippine human rights organization, said that this represents a strategy of buying the Philippines “piece by piece, people by people.” 

The summit precedes the annual Balikatan or “shoulder to shoulder” joint-military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which will take place in the Philippines later this month. The war exercises, critics say, is intended to counter China’s regional assertiveness. The said military exercise has been dubbed as the “largest iteration of Balikatan to date,” as more than 17,600 members of the AFP and the U.S. military are set to participate.

Beyond the expanded Balikatan exercises, the Biden administration has also announced that four more military bases will be set up in the Philippines in addition to the existing EDCA sites. 

BAYAN USA argued that this expansion may lead to more cases of abuse in local communities near EDCA sites. It cited the death of Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipino woman who was killed by US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton while visiting the country for the Balikatan exercises in 2014. 

Pemberton was released by former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte in 2020 despite being found guilty.

Joint vision statement condemned

In the Philippines, progressive groups also criticized the proceedings of the trilateral summit.

Antonio Tinio, spokesperson of Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) condemned the “Joint Vision Statement” released by the summit, which reaffirmed the commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” 

“We reject the very use, imposition, and propagation by the US of the so-called ‘Indo-Pacific’ as the all-encompassing framework by which the numerous countries in Asia are supposed to define their relationships with each other,” Tinio said. “The ‘Indo-Pacific’ is a relatively new-fangled construct adopted by the US to maintain itself as the dominant superpower…[and] is no different from China’s bogus Nine-Dash Line, a hegemonic construct imposed on geography by military might.”

“The most blatant hypocrisy and doublespeak is apparent in the statement’s affirmations on peace, human rights, democracy, and respect for international law. It reaffirms “the pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons” even as the US is in the midst of a massive modernization of its nuclear arsenal,” Tinio added.

Luzon corridor?

Meanwhile, BAYAN secretary-general Raymond Palatino voiced opposition to what is being termed the “Luzon Corridor,” which is perceived as an extension of EDCA. This plan involves turning Luzon into a hub for foreign military operations, which according to the group, compromises Philippine sovereignty and poses risks to local communities.

“The unveiling of the ‘Luzon Corridor’ during the trilateral summit signals the intensified foreign military buildup in the island,” Palatino warned. “It practically turns the country’s biggest island into an EDCA site servicing thousands of foreign troops at any given time. It is purported to be an economic zone but it is linked to the installation of EDCA sites and the repurposing of Subic and Clark into military hubs for joint exercises with foreign troops,” he explained.

“We condemn Marcos Jr.’s double talk that pretends to protect our rightful claim on the West Philippine Sea and the Spratlys against Chinese aggression as he submits to US-Japan military muscle flexing and war mongering under the guise of regional cooperation and peace. Such actions go against the peoples of Asia’s shared aspiration for liberation, national sovereignty, genuine economic and social development and peace,” Palatino stressed.

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