There’s more to the visits by US military officials, says a group.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The consecutive visits by American military officials in the country signal “intensified US intervention,” in the Philippines and in the Asia-Pacific region, says an international alliance.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Philippines) said the three-day visit of US Pacific Command (USPACOM) Chief Admiral Harry Harris is part of strengthening US military foothold in the region and is only “using the expansion of China as an excuse.”
The ILPS-Philippines said Harris brings the Pentagon’s new “Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy,” which supposedly aims “to safeguard the freedom of the seas, deter conflict and coercion, and promote adherence to international law and standards.”
“It is, in fact, freedom for the US to exploit the seas, profit from conflict and shared interest with China, while maintaining US non-adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” the ILPS-Philippines said.
In July, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift also visited the country and joined a surveillance mission over the West Philippine Sea.
Progressives had criticized the US for taking advantage of the country’s weak external defense and pushing its agenda in the face of China’s military build-up and continued aggression.
Bilateral tactical exercises of the Philippine Air Force and US Marines are ongoing since Aug. 20, running up to 31, according to the US embassy in Manila. This is the second joint exercises this year, following the first one held in May, and parallel with joint war games with Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
Also this August, the American hospital ship USNS Mercy docked at Subic Bay for a 10-day mission as part of the Pacific Partnership 2015.
Visiting from Aug. 25 to 27, Harris met with Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin at Camp Aguinaldo. He also gave a courtesy call in Malacañang, where he was received by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya, Gazmin and Irriberi. Harris’s last stop was at the headquarters of the Western Command (WesCom) in Puerto Princesa city, Palawan, where he met with chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez.
Ulugan (Oyster) Bay, in Palawan is speculated to be one of the “agreed locations” under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), along with the former US naval base in Subic Bay, Zambales – both areas facing the West Philippine Sea, where China has been conducting aggressive reclamation and encroachment in Philippine territories.