CL folk jittery over US military presence
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO - The war rhetoric of North Korea has sparked jitters among folk in Central Luzon which hosts the US military during joint war exercises in the two former US military bases at Clark and Subic and other parts of the region.
This, as American soldiers have again become visible at Clark and nearby Angeles City amid another round of Balikatan joint military exercises starting today up to April 17.
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) at Clark said about 4,000 American military personnel are to join this year’s Balikatan exercises and that 14 out of 30 US military aircraft already arrived last Monday in Clark for the exercises.
Other venues for the military exercises are the former US naval base in Subic, Zambales, Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac, and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, all in Central Luzon.
in view of fresh rounds of US-PHL war games, the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luson (AMGL) joined yesterday the ranks of groups wary of developments between North Korea and the US and the risk this poses to the country arising from US military presence.
Earlier, the Anakpawis Partylist, Central Luzon Ayta Association (CLAA), Timpuyog Katutubo ng Nueva Ecija (TKNE), and the Katribu Partylist-Central Luzon aired similar concerns.
”We urge the people of Central Luzon to oppose the Balikatan exercises as they are an insult to us as a sovereign people who should be free from foreign military intervention and involvement,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGLl chairperson and Anakpawis Partylist-Central Luzon regional coordinator.
Canlas warned of the “risk of allowing the United States armed forces to practically use the region and the country as a military base or a staging ground of its war of aggression against China or North Korea.”
On the other hand, the militant Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) described the presence of nearly 4,000 US troops supported by 30 military aircraft for Balikatan as “shocking” and “outrageous.”
“Are we in a state of war with a nation, which is not our enemy, but critical of Washington D.C. and the US military game plan of aggression in Asia and the Pacific? If not, how come the Philippine government has allowed more than 4,000 US military forces to come to the country on rapid deployment mode and rotation basis?” asked Pamalakay vice chair Salvador France.
Reports yesterday said North Korea issued another threat of attacks by a “smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear force, and warned that ”the moment of explosion is approaching fast.”
The new threat came after the North Koreans locked South Korean workers out of a joint factory complex and announced plans to restart a nuclear reactor it shut down five years ago.
This, even as the US announced it was sending ballistic missile defenses to Guam, a Pacific territory that’s home to U.S. naval and air bases.
France said “something sinister is going in the frequent docking of US warships in many ports of the country and the rapid deployment of thousands of American military forces on frequent basis under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).”
He cited reports that 14 US military aircraft already arrived at Clark last Monday, and more were expected to arrive this week up to next week.
Apart from the fear that the local presence of the US military could drag the country into the conflict between the US and North Korea, Canlas also said that during Balikatan and other similar exercises, “farmers, indigenous peoples and fisherfolk are prohibited to attend their farms or go fishing in the venues.”
“Subic Bay is a source of livelihood for fisherfolk communities in Zambales towns, Camp O’ Donnell and Crow Valley are lands cultivated by Ayta communities, Fort Magsaysay is cultivated by low-land and Igorot farmers.
Their livelihood and safety are always threatened during these military exercises as they use live-round ammunitions and ordnance,” said Canlas.
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