U.S. Plays Philippines War Games
Image Credit: U.S. Navy

U.S. Plays Philippines War Games


Last week, the Philippine government protested what it called China’s incursion into the country’s territorial waters in Scarborough Shoal. It also vociferously opposed North Korea’s decision to launch a rocket into space because of the debris that might land on Philippine soil. But while it has been obsessively suspicious over the real motives of China and North Korea, it readily welcomed the entry of United States troops into the country this week.  

Around 4,500 soldiers from the U.S. Pacific Command have joined 2,300 Filipino troops in the 28th Philippine-U.S. Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) exercises that are being held from April 16 to 27. Most of the military exercises will be held in Palawan Province, which is the nearest island to the highly contested Spratly islands. China is among the claimants of these islands.

By April 30, the U.S. and Philippine governments will be meeting in Washington to finalize details of the deployment of additional U.S. troops in the Philippines and the holding of more war games in other parts of the country. News reports suggest U.S. Marines from Okinawa are being moved to Guam and rotated to several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines.

As China and the U.S. vie for military supremacy in the Asia-Pacific, the Philippines it seems has already decided to maintain closer military ties with its former colonial master over its Asian neighbor. The choice didn’t surprise analysts because the United States has been an influential force in the Philippines’ domestic politics over the past century.

Despite the decision of the Philippine Senate not to renew the U.S. bases treaty in 1991, U.S. troops were still able to visit and stay in the Philippines for an indefinite period because of the subsequent signing of several military agreements between the two governments. In fact, a de facto U.S. military camp exists in Zamboanga City in Mindanao Island where 600 U.S. Special Forces have been based since 2002.

Regardless, the war games and the continued presence of U.S. military troops in the country are being opposed by activist groups for various reasons.

First, some groups claim that these maneuvers violate Philippine sovereignty. They have also wanted to confirm if the visiting U.S. warship has nuclear arms because the Philippine Constitution explicitly bans nuclear weapons in the country.

In addition, activists have expressed fears that the war games could attract terrorists who might wish to plan an attack against U.S. soldiers in the Philippines. Finally, the government has been accused in the past of allowing U.S. soldiers to participate in actual combat operations against local rebels. The U.S. is suspected by some of providing drones during several local military offensives against rebel camps at a time when the Philippines is facing a separatist movement in Mindanao and a homegrown nationwide communist insurgency.  

But it’s not only activists who have complained. Farmers and fishermen also complain because the war games are affecting their livelihoods. Some farmers say they have been driven from their land, while fishermen say they have been prevented from fishing near the site of the military exercises.

Renato Reyes of the leftist group Bayan summarized the opposition to the entry of U.S. soldiers in the Philippines: “The U.S. wants it known that it is still top dog in this region, to the great dismay of many peace-loving peoples in Southeast Asia. We do not want our country to be used as a U.S. outpost and playground. We are not a laboratory for U.S. drone wars. We do not want the U.S. meddling in our internal conflicts and regional issues. We do not want the Philippines acting like the U.S. troops’ doormat in the region. We do not want U.S. troops using our country as their Rest and Recreation destination of choice.”

Maybe it’s time for the Philippine government to review its foreign policy. While it has the right to forge military ties with the U.S., it shouldn’t equate the geopolitical interests of the U.S. with the Philippines. It must strive to adopt an independent foreign policy instead of merely parroting the viewpoint of the U.S. government.

February 7, 2013 at 18:17

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article, . Continue composing and I’ll try to keep on browsing! Thanks for your effort -Ezequiel

Syrel Moquia
August 17, 2012 at 14:43

China did not respect the International Law. under the law of the sea EEZ!

Syrel Moquia
August 17, 2012 at 14:33

Filipino people are very good & close relation to the American people…. Chinese people no good we knows that wherever you ask…

Syrel Moquia
August 17, 2012 at 14:24

We dont need Chinese people here in the Philippines. we are maltreated by the Chinese Business community & N0. 1 tax evader, dealing with not good products… they  are treated us like slave in our own country…

April 28, 2012 at 00:09

Mong Palatino (the author) is not credible, plain and simple. He is a member of the Philippine Congress (House of Reps) representing a LEFTIST youth political party. Obviously, this article is overly biased, and it does not echo the prevailing sentiment of the Filipino people with respect to the “Balikatan” and China’s aggressive bullying. It’s not hard to imagine that these self proclaimed nationalists are mere puppets of the CCP.

April 21, 2012 at 08:50

“Renato Reyes of the leftist group Bayan” if you believe Bayan then you are crazy.
Those “leftist” groups are COMMUNIST and of course they wanted the US out so that it helps their interest.

If you do find a comment from a neutral party or person than it would be believable, but getting one from a COMMUNIST it does not lend credence to asking the US to leave us alone.

In fact, with the current Climate we need the US more than ever vis a vis China.

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, Phil Army
April 20, 2012 at 07:47

The activist who were complaining were the activist organization and association were all under the umbrella of Communist Legal front organization which is ding,implementing Mao Tse Tong communist thoughts were the Chinese communist have organized to weaken the Philippine capability and serving Chinese intent to invade Spratley Island of Palawan Province, Philippines located at WESTERN PHILIPPINE SEA…

April 19, 2012 at 22:44

people keep on hating usa but hope that usa should be ready to help them against china.why play this double game?

April 19, 2012 at 22:01

those activist are commies, what do you expect? and they do not echo the sentiments of the majority of the filipino people.

April 19, 2012 at 05:07

Simplifying, the difference between US/Philippines and China/Philippines is pretty straitforward: it makes sense to invite a friend into your house to help you paint; it does not make sense to applaud someone who breaks into your house to claim your TV as his own.

April 19, 2012 at 04:43

This entire article is biased and misleading. The US and China are not vieing for military supremacy – the US simply has it, and is trying to maintain a stable environment under international laws and norms. If China ultimately does contest that, then there would be a situation such as the author suggests, but we are not there yet.
Furthermore, these games are for the benefit of the Philippines, first and foremost. Suggesting that the Philippines is a pawn is nonsense and shows a lack of respect for the independence and decision-making of the country and its people. Their government knows perfectly well what problems it is facing and what it needs international support on. Finally, these protest groups are a minuscule percent of Filipinos. Not mentioning this fact, nor the purpose of the exercise – but emphasizing how close it is to a recent disputed area – shows deep bias.

April 18, 2012 at 19:25

South Sea Asian nations including Philippine government and China could should and settle the disputes among themselves peacefully as good neighbors as they have been enjoying peacefully for thousand years without the meddling by USA, an outside foreign power.

April 18, 2012 at 12:54

What’s the point of this article – the author makes ticky-tacky objections to U.S. military support while China is busy grabbing the Philippines entire EE???! China must have an awfully good subversion and propaganda effort underway in the Philippines if it can get a Philippine politician to criticize the U.S. just as Chinese ships are violating Philippine territory.

Filipino Patriot
April 18, 2012 at 07:47

Those Filipino activists who are against Philippines close military alliance with the United States are but 0.01% of the total population. They are communists. They speak out harshly against US cooperation with the Philippines yet they smile even while Chinese vessels enter our territorial waters and insult our own Navy. These people are the comrades of John Chan.

Majority of Filipinos value our close alliance with the US. Our grandfathers and fathers together with the Americans. We value freedom and democracy. We’d rather play second fiddle on US side than be slaves to communist China, that’s for sure.

April 18, 2012 at 06:21

Of course these people are free to their opinions and to push whatever plan of action they want, but I think the latest incident at Scarborough shoal illustrates why the Philippines views its geopolitical interests closer to the US than China.

The Chinese embassy released a statement demanding the Philippine ships to leave ‘China’s Territory’ for crying out loud.

These activists make no mention of Chinese violation of Philippine sovereignty (in a much more serious manner than war games) while taking issue with war games agreed upon by the US and the Philippines, I question their priorities and/or their loyalties.

What is wrong with the US helping the Philippines combat insurgency at their government’s behest?

April 18, 2012 at 03:14

Misleading. The “rebels” are allied with Al Qaeda and that is why special forces have been stationed there since 2002…you know after 9/11.

Besides some viewpoints from some anonymous fishermen and farmers…the leadership of the Philippines is convinced of the need for US assistance. Since the Chinese seem so inclined to bully “smaller” countries. The last wks of Chinese agression has validated their concerns.

The US brings with it leverage in many other areas that will benefit the Philippines. For instance the US could threaten to sell F-16 C&D models to both the Philippines and Taiwan as a response. Or significantly increase the presence in South Korea. The US has far more leverage to counter Chinese aggression than the Philipines has by itself. The US will be “Balikatan” with the Philippines regardless of Chinese threats and aggression.

John Peloquin
April 18, 2012 at 01:55

I sympathize with the Philipinos about have the US military hanging around. But without the US, the Philipines will inevitably become a vassal of China. I should think putting up with some of the negatives associated with US presence is much more tolerable than being a subject people to China.

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