Philippines at the precipice of inter-imperialist war

Editorial – Liberation International | April-June 2024

As US imperialist war provocations against China continue to escalate, the Philippines finds itself precariously positioned at the precipice of an imminent war. The recent intensification of US military operations in the archipelago, exemplified by the Balikatan war games and the recently concluded aerial war exercises underscore how the US government is preparing the Philippines as its forward military base in an expansive war front against imperialist China.

The historical context of US-Philippines relations, marked by colonial rule and its current neo-colonial arrangement, frames these latest developments. Under the US Military Bases Agreement (MBA) of 1947, approximately 70,000 hectares of land had been occupied by US military bases since 1947 to 1992. The construction of these military bases is a witness to the long history of seizures of ancestral and agricultural lands, subjugation and eviction of national minorities and peasant masses.  

In addition to the MBA, the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951 binds the Philippines to US foreign policy and is the basis for the involvement of the Philippines in wars the US has created in the past decades, including its wars of aggression and intervention in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iran and Afghanistan.

The Filipino people emerged victorious when the Senate rejected on September 17, 1992, the extension of the MBA due to overwhelming anti-US bases protests. Nevertheless, even though the biggest symbol of US military domination was ejected, in essence it continued through US control over the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The US and the Philippine puppet regime would later sign the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) of 1998 which paved the way to the unbridled entry and exit of American troops in the Philippines under the cover of ‘rotational presence’ of different US warships and the yearly Balikatan military war exercises. In addition to the VFA, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed in 2014 allowing the US to build military bases inside so-called “agreed locations” within Philippine soil.

Marcos Jr.’s servility to the US and his betrayal of Philippine sovereignty are the reasons why the country is being dragged into a war that has nothing to do with its national interest. In exchange for military aid and political favors, the Marcos Jr. regime blindly follows the wishes and needs of the US military for the construction of more bases and facilities.

Meanwhile, the annual Balikatan war exercises have taken on a more combative edge in recent years. This year’s iteration is the biggest in history thus far with a significant increase in troop deployment, advanced weaponry training, the involvement of the French and Australian Navy, and increasingly complex tactical maneuvers designed to stimulate high-intensity conflict scenarios. The recently concluded aerial war games between the Philippine Air Force and the US Pacific Air Forces dubbed “Cope Thunder” further highlights the shift towards preparing for looming military confrontations with China.

These exercises, however, are more than just routine military drills; they are a clear signal of US war designs being rolled out in the Asian region. By positioning the Philippines as a critical component of its encirclement strategy, the US is using the archipelago as a frontline in its broader first island chain strategy against imperialist China.

In conjunction with this plan, the US is intensifying the counterrevolutionary war in the Philippines against the armed revolutionary movement and at the same time dragging the Marcos Jr. puppet state in its war escalations against China.

For the Filipino masses, the implications of this heightened military activity are profound and perilous. The Philippines’ strategic location makes it an invaluable asset for the US strategy to encircle and contain China. However, this position also places the Filipino people at significant risk in a conflict similar to the last two inter-imperialist World Wars that led to massive loss of lives, human suffering and destruction.

On the other hand, the US-directed and financed counterrevolutionary war is systematically employing weaponry that targets peasant communities and civilians through extensive nationwide bombing campaigns, strafing and artillery shelling – all of which are tantamount to war crimes under international humanitarian law.

The current trajectory of U.S. imperialist military advances in the Philippines and war provocations against China is therefore unsustainable and reckless. The Filipino masses, particularly those in regions close to the contested maritime territories, already bear the brunt of aggressive actions from both Chinese naval forces and the heightened military presence of the US. The local fishing communities, which rely on these waters for their livelihoods, face increasing danger and uncertainty as their home becomes a flashpoint for inter-imperialist conflict.

The Filipino people must act immediately and rise up to defend the country’s national freedom and sovereignty, denounce the Marcos Jr. puppet regime, and vigorously fight US plans to use the Philippines as a pawn in its dangerous game against China. #