The regional farmers’ group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) demanded the immediate end to the on-going US-PH Balikatan exercises, particularly those located in the region. The group said that its only intention is to suppress the rising peasant unrest and of indigenous peoples against land grabbing, dislocation and land use conversion.
“Civic actions or humanitarian missions of the Balikatan are all ploys to avoid the multi-sectoral protests against it and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The fundamental issue is land, the stripping off of the rights of farmers and indigenous peoples on their lands,” Joseph Canlas, AMGL Chairperson, said in a press statement.
AMGL said that the field training exercises are located to those areas with peasant and people’s protests against programs and projects that threaten their rights to land. The areas of the exercises are at Leovigildo Gantiaoqui Naval Station at Subic, Zambales, Basa Airbase and Clark Freeport Zones in Angeles City, Pampanga, at Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur town, Nueva Ecija and Crow Valley Gunnery Range in Capas, Tarlac. The other site of exercises outside the region is at Sangley Point in Cavite City. The Balikatan 2011 involves about 5,000 US soldiers.
“Thousands of combat-ready and technologically-equpped American soldiers are now in the region, we believe their presence are to intimidate peasants and indigenous peoples who struggle for their rights on the lands,” Canlas said.
AMGL said that Zambales is targeted for mining operations as it is rich in mineral resources such as nickel, copper, magnetite and more. Farmers and indigenous peoples are protesting massive mining operations in the province that result their dislocation and destruction to the environment. In addition, indigenous people and farmers are also protesting the construction of the Balog-balog Multi-Purpose Dam project in San Jose town, adjacent to Capas in Tarlac. The said dam are bound to wipe out Aeta communities and cause massive flashfloods to the town proper and Tarlac city.
In Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, farmers are being displaced as military and police officials grab lands in anticipation of the conduit highways of the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB). Farmers and indigenous peoples are also struggling for their rights to land in Pantabangan, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija and other towns adjacent to the Pantabangan Multi-Purpose Dam. The area around the Pantabangan Lake is presently heavily militarized and indigenous peoples are being displaced from their farms as the Energy Development Corp. and California Energy (CalEn) push through with their watershed program. American soldiers were also spotted at Brgy. Bantog, inside Hacienda Luisita last year.
The group also criticized the “civic-action” component of the Balikatan that included construction of school rooms in Zambales and Tarlac.
“Farmers in Central Luzon know the real intentions of the Balikatan and we are not stupid to believe those facade of civic action and humanitarian mission. As if the cost of classrooms would compensate American plunder of our resources and violation of our basic rights. They are even using the tsunami incident in Japan to justify the military exercises, if they are indeed true to their intent, the 10,000-strong contingent of the Balikatan should all go to Japan and help the victims,” Canlas said.
“We totally oppose these exercises as the Philippine military is notorious in violating the rights of those who struggle for their basic rights. The Americans are simply modernizing the capabities of the armed forces to butcher, harass and threaten more farmers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk and other sectors. We demand an end to the Balikatan exercises,” added Canlas.
The group said that the Balikatan 2011 military exercises are part of the Operation Plan Bayanihan of the Aquino government patterned from the US Counter-insurgency Guide (COIN) that illusions of quelling the peasant and people’s resistance to its program and projects that would definitely dislocate them from their farms.
AMGL alongwith its provincial chapters in Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan and Pangasinan are planning for a massive protest against Balikatan next week.
“Join us in our protest against Balikatan to show our disapproval of the American aggression against farmers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk and other sectors in our country,” Canlas called. #