US acts of intervention amid return of Balangiga Bells

Public attention was drawn recently to the return of the Balangiga Bells several days ago. Indeed, the return of the bells was a victory of the Filipino people who have long demanded that they be brought back as a symbol of their resistance to US colonial aggression and as a reminder of the brutalities perpetrated by the American occupying forces.

The US government used the opportunity to portray the return of the bells as a commitment to its “friendship and alliance” with the Filipino people. However, even before the people heard the bells solemnly peal again, the US and its military were actually trampling their boots on Philippine national sovereignty.

On December 10, the US military docked its USS Greeneville submarine and USS Emory S. Land submarine tender at the Puerto Princesa City port. In doing so, the US military once again used Philippine civilian facilities for its war sea vessels used in US power projection operations in the South China Sea, using Palawan, as base. Earlier in June, the US docked another warship, the USNS Millinocket in the same port.

A few days later, the AFP announced the formation of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1st BCT), an elite unit directly trained, armed and operated by the US military. The 1st BCT is based in Fort Magsaysay where the US also maintains facilities under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). It is also the base of another US-trained unit, the Light Reaction Regiment, which was the first AFP unit deployed in the Marawi Siege in 2017.

Both these indicate heightening US intervention in the Philippines. US imperialism is using the Duterte regime and the AFP as tools as it confronts challenges to its hegemony.

First, it is using the country as base for its build-up of military strength and presence in order to contain the expansion of China’s military powers in the South China Sea and continue to control the Asia-Pacific trade routes. Through so-called joint exercises, it establishes interoperability with the AFP which will ensure that the AFP can provide the necessary support to the needs of US military forces.

Secondly, it is directing the AFP and the Duterte regime in its counterinsurgency operations against the CPP/NPA to ensure that it is being conducted along US doctrine, using weapons provided by the US and sold through the US Foreign Military Financing program. There are around 200-300 American military advisers in the country which are directly embedded in the AFP and involved in key military operations on the ground.

US military intervention in the Philippines is bound to heighten as the US seeks to secure its dominance in the country. The Filipino people have no other recourse but to heighten their resistance and strengthen their struggle for genuine national sovereignty.