Fisherfolk calls to stop the Balikatan 2016
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) on Tuesday calls to stop the Balikatan exercise that started yesterday.
Balikatan is an annual US-PH military exercise under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the newly-passed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The balikatan 2016 started yesterday, April 4 until April 15, it involves 10,000 American, Philippine and Australian forces and some Japanese forces acting as observers.
But for Pamalakaya, balikatan 2016 shouldn’t be pursued for it will pose a huge threat to the Filipino people.
“American troops are always linked to human rights violations against ordinary people. 12 days of U.S. Forces in our country is perturbing for it might cause another Jennifer Laude or Nicole rape case incidents again.” Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson said in a statement.
The ongoing Balikatan is the biggest military exercise between the Philippines and the United States which involved five of the Philippine Military’s unified command – the Western Command in Palawan, Northern Luzon Command in Tarlac, Central Command in Cebu and Panay, Southern Luzon Command in Lucena and the Joint Task Force – National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) in Metro Manila.
Pamalakaya said that fishers are always the front-line casualties whenever there are Balikatan especially those of water-based military drills.
“Balikatan exercises often results to disruptions on livelihoods of the fisherfolk as every time war games were held in our waters, fishing bans were imposed to provide blanket security to the American soldiers. This clearly means that G.I. Joes are not only threat to our national security, but moreover to the lives and livelihoods of our fishers.” France, also convener of the broad alliance Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) said.
Pamalakaya also slammed the Olongapo Court’s decision to reduce convicted Joseph Scott Pemberton’s prison sentence to 10 years, saying this is an insult to the family of transgender Jennifer Laude whom Pemberton brutally killed on 2014.
“Government’s ruling to reduce Pemberton’s sentence is a welcome gift to American troops. As if the government is telling those Yankees that they are free to do heinous crimes with impunity to Filipino people with all their might.” France said.
Pamalakaya and P1NAS urged the Filipino people to expose and show their objection against this unequal military agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines. They also challenged both the local and national candidates to join the broad alliance of the people in calling for the abrogation of the VFA and EDCA until U.S. bases in our country will be once again rejected. ###