Balikatan war pushes AFP aerial bombing, raises temperature of East Asia conflict
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounces the Balikatan joint war exercises being held since Monday between the US military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) involving close to 9,000 personnel which form part of heightened US military intervention in the Philippines in outright violation of the country’s sovereignty. According to reports, there are 5,100 American soldiers participating in the war games, while there are 3,800 AFP soldiers.
The Balikatan exercises seeks to showcase US firepower for the double purpose of feeding the AFP’s addiction to US-supplied weapons, especially attack aircraft and bombs, and as a show-of-force against imperialist rival China.
a) Balikatan and AFP aerial bombing, strafing and shelling
The US military and government is the principal driving force behind the escalation of the AFP’s war of suppression under the Duterte regime which involves the use of jetfighters, helicopters, drones, bombs, missiles, rockets, artillery, rifles and bullets supplied by American defense companies and US subsidiaries in Israel, Poland, Turkey and other countries.
The annual Balikatan exercises serve as occasion to reinforce the US’ doctrinal and operational control of the AFP on the pretext of “interoperability.” The display of US arsenal aims to make AFP generals drool over the hi-tech weapons and the prospect of getting cuts in the billions of pesos worth of government contracts.
Despite the historical fact that air power is ineffective in fighting a guerrilla force, the AFP has adapted the tactic of aerial bombing following US military dictates. In the past years, the aerial bombing drive of the AFP has succeeded only in terrorizing civilian communities in the countryside, as well as destroying forest resources, polluting the environment and disturbing protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries. Hundreds of tons of explosives have been dropped by the AFP since 2017 after Duterte gave the order to “flatten the hills.”
To sell its aircraft and bombs, the US military has also conducted aerial bombing in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries, and has supplied sold bombs and aircraft to Saudi Arabia, to conduct relentless bombing drives in Yemen resulting in thousands upon thousands of civilian lives lost.
b) Balikatan and increasing prospect of war in East Asia
By allowing the US to conduct the large-scale war exercises, the Duterte regime is displaying outright lack of independence in its foreign policy as it firmly binds the Philippines to the US policy of war and the US push to escalate military conflicts with China through the increased deployment of US warships in the Pacific Sea, the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
The Duterte regime refused to abrogate the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and other unequal military agreements with the US. This allows the US to hold war exercises in the Philippines, dock its warships, land its jetfighters, maintain a permanent contingent of American soldiers in a number of AFP camps and stockpile US weapons in the country. In doing so, it makes the country a target of any country in conflict with the US.
The Balikatan war exercises are causing the temperatures of military conflict in East Asia to rise. The exercises further increase the potential of inter-imperialist military conflict in East Asia between the US and China. This conflict is being exacerbated in the face of China’s effort to build up its own military strength to push its unlawful claims on 90% of the South China Sea, and by the US effort to secure its geopolitical interests in the so-called “first island chain” which includes the Philippines.
The US show of force of thousands of American troops and their arsenal of warships, jet fighters, drones, bombs and tanks can be compared to the years of US provocations in Europe against Russia which ignited a proxy war in Ukraine. We must learn from the history of US and NATO provocations and demand a peaceful international settlement of the Philippine territorial claims as rewarded by the International Arbitral Tribunal under the UNCLOS.