With or without North Korea’s declaration of “state of war”, the Obama doctrine of 2012 charted the United States strategic pivot to Asia Pacific through the relocation of US forces from Europe and reductions in the Middle East.
Apart from putting up a base in Australia and station ships in Singapore, the US announced recently that it would increase the number of troops, aircraft and ship that rotate through the Philippines. The announcement was made during the 3rd Philippines-United States Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Manila, held last December 11-12, 2012. The two countries are expected to sign a five-year US-Philippine military exercise plan in their upcoming meetings.
The US is pushing for the stationing of its Navy ships, in the Philippines, on a temporary basis and conducts more frequent joint exercises. No surprise, the AFP is looking forward to more joint bilateral exercises and undertakings, such as the annual Balikatan exercises, the Cooperation of Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), and the Balance Piston exercises.
For the whole month of March 2013, the USS Blue Ridge, the Command ship of the US 7th fleet; the USS Emory S. Land, a submarine tender; the USS Ohio, 560-foot Ohio-class submarine armed with Tomahawk missiles, Mk-48 torpedoes and others; and the USS Decatur, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer entered the country with 1,829 US military personnel.
A Freedom Banner Exercise as conducted in Subic Bay last March 21-22, 2013. Two US Navy boats Under the Military Sealift Command arrived in Subic for the exercise. It showed the capacity of the US Marine corps and the US Navy to obtain and sustain combat power of the Maritine Prepositioning Force offload. This exercise has been directed by the US Pacific Command in other countries. This is the first time it is done in the country.
The 29th Balikatan exercises will be held from April 5-17, 2013. This year’s Philippine-US joint military exercise is for an improved humanitarian disaster response and interoperability. At least, 8,000 American and Filipino soldiers are taking part in the Balikatan exercise. Starting mid-March, 2013, there were already preliminary work involving community infrastructure and humanitarian projects in Zambales province. The whole exercise will involve eight engineering civic actions projects (ENCAP), six cooperative health engagements, eight community relations activities (COMREL), five subject matter expert exchanges and two medical COMRELS. Religious ministries will also be included in some COMRELS.
The set objective of the forthcoming Balikatan is worth examining. The humanitarian emphasis of its military presence hinges on the series of natural disasters that often hit the country and the last typhoon Pablo killed 900 Filipinos. It is a masterstroke propaganda. It is to “de-militarize” a military training exercise.
Staff and field training exercise will also be held in Camp O’Donnel and Crow Valley, both in Tarlac; and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
The Philippines and the United States have invited personnel from partner nations in the region to attend a part of the exercise like Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Republic of Korea.
For decades, the US has helped build the Philippine military and security forces and offered financial assistance in exchange for greater American presence in the country. The US has given almost $700 million to P-Noy’s regime.
Undeniably, the presence of US troops in the Philippines for the latter’s interests. During the Cold War era, the country’s involvement in the two major US wars in Korea and Vietnam was shameful, to say the least.
The US presence in the country would likely guard against Chinese influence and try to contain the latter’s rising military and economic power. China has territorial claims across the South China Sea and with the Philippines, has overlapping claims of the Spratly Island and the Bajo de Masinloc.
Economically, China enjoys good relations with members of the Association of South East Asian nations (ASEAN).
With the emerging Cold War between the US and China, where both are susceptible to engage in brinkmanship posturing, the Philippines is a willing partner of the US. The ten day Amphibious Landing Exercise 2013 (PHIBLEX 13) with the Armed Forces of the Philippines from Oct 8-18, 2012 attended by 2,500 American marines and 1,200 Philippine marines focusing on disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and maritime security had irritated China. China has already called DFA Sec. Alberto del Rosario as “pathetic”. The Chinese media has described the Philippines as “troublemakers seeking conflict”.
P-Noy’s government attitude in accommodating the design of the US in the country is bordering on treason. He has provided the widest latitude for the US to engage in the brinkmanship game with China aided by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Both agreements sanction the US military ships to freely sail around and anchor anywhere in the Philippines. Correspondingly, US troops base and operate anywhere they want to.
Now that US got what it wanted from North Korea, no further justifications are required for the increasing US military presence. And, with P-Noy’s subservience to US military designs in the part of the world, the Filipino people could only expect more violations of their sovereignty and territorial integrity. ###