CALIFORNIA - The annual joint military exercises continue between the US and the Philippines, which aims to strengthen the military allegiance of the two nations.
The exercises are being held against the backdrop of the tension between China and the Philippines over territorial rights to the Scarborough Shoal, located more than 100 miles west of Luzon.
The annual Balikatan exercises, involving more than 6,000 US and Philippine troops, include mock beach invasion along coastlines facing China.
But Philippine officials say the military exercises are not linked to the Scarborough Shoal standoff and not meant to provoke China.
PH-US military ties hit
Filipino-American activists in San Francisco and Los Angeles denounce the US-Philippine military partnership.
Activists in Los Angeles who held a demonstration outside of the Philippine Consulate called on the US troops to leave the Philippines alone.
“The US troops in the Philippines have no reason to be there. If there are problems in the Philippines, let the Filipino people resolve it on their own,” Bayan USA coordinator Kuusela Hilo said.
Activists in San Francisco who held a protest in front of the Federal building say the heightened US military presence in the Philippines will only make the conflict worse between China and the Philippines.
“We know that escalating military presence is not going to help the situation. We really need diplomacy. US meddling in the affairs of the Philippines is part of a historical trend, and it’s never helped the Filipino people,” Rhonda Ramiro, secretary general of BAYAN USA said.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs invited China to discuss sovereign rights over the Scarborough Shoal before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
The standoff at the Scarborough Shoal began last April 8, when a Philippine surveillance aircraft spotted Chinese fishing boats near the shoal, which China and the Philippines both claim.
Why protest vs US?
Instead of protesting US military presence in the Philippines, some Filipinos say kababayans should even be thankful to the US military in case the standoff gets worse.
"Lahat naman talaga kahit sinong bansa may mga sariling motibo sila pag tumulong sa isang bansa. Pero ang tanong natin, kaya ba natin na tayo lang?" said Rizaline Tesoro.
The annual military exercises, which include mock beach invasions, live-fire exercises and community-service operations are expected to last until April 27.
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