Filipinos fear for country as next 'theater of war' amid joint military drills

Local News Official
Local News OfficialSunStar File Photo

FILIPINOS have expressed heightened fear over the joint military exercises with the United States, Japan, and Australia off Batanes Island seas near Taiwan on April 7, 2024, in the face of the rising naval aggression of China in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

"The military transformation of such an idyllic [Batanes] Island is highly deplorable and would further escalate the growing tensions in the South China Sea. It would also make Batanes a target of attacks as it would be a forward base of the US if China moves against Taiwan," said teacher-lawmaker France Castro on April 7.

Expressing her concerns over the implications of the joint military drills, Castro said: "If this happens or if China escalates its aggression in the West Philippine Sea then we would be right smack in the middle of an inter-imperialist war, making the Philippines the theater of war in Southeast Asia."

League of Filipino Students, the largest youth-led national democratic mass organization in the country, also urged the public to denounce the “interference” of both the U.S. and China in the Philippines.

“Let's not let the U.S. and China turn our country into a war zone! Let's promote our national sovereignty together, and push for a genuine independent foreign policy that won't make our nation a loser,” the LFS said in a statement, as they are also set to launch a protest action at the Chinese Embassy in the capital Manila during the national “Day of Valor” observation on April 9, 2024.

Progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan earlier noted the “dramatic increase in the presence of U.S. troops, military vessels and equipment in the country,” with the presence of some 11,000 U.S. troops for the military drills.

“At the very least, this gives China an additional justification for more military activities in the said areas,” said Mong Palatino, Bayan secretary general.

"It is the Filipino fisherfolk all over again who will bear the brunt of China’s retaliation against these provocative naval drills with other countries," added Fernando Hicap, national chairperson of fishermen group Pamalakaya.

Speaking to the media on April 7, Hicap said that “it has been proven that foreign military exercises did not dispel Chinese Coast Guard vessels from our territorial waters.”

Meanwhile, Philippine Senator Bato dela Rosa welcomed the naval drills, saying: “China has been shamelessly making fools of us for a very long time.”

“Don’t say that we are provoking them. They are the ones who have been provoking for a long time. But we have no match with them, so it’s better to involve bigger countries to increase our posture so we won’t always be humiliated,” Dela Rosa told the media on April 7.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines announced that the first “Multilateral Maritime Cooperative Activity” with the United States Indo-Pacific Command, Australian Defense Force, and Japan Self-Defense Forces on April 7 was “successfully conducted.”

Earlier, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged the Filipinos not to show fear amid the threats of China in the disputed territories.

"We seek no conflict with any nation, more so nations that purport and claim to be our friends but we will not be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience. Filipinos do not yield," said Marcos Jr. in his March 28 public statement following the attack of China's coast guard against a Philippine ship that was en route to Ayungin Shoal for a resupply mission on March 23.

As this developed, Palatino reminded the national government leaders that “there are effective ways of defending and asserting our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our exclusive economic zone without having to increase US troops or establish additional US bases in the country.”

These include “being more aggressive and creative in its use of diplomacy” and taking advantage of "available international legal remedies to hold China accountable for its environmentally destructive island-building activities” in the Philippine territories. (ROR/SunStar Philippines)


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