Resumption of US-PH Balikatan to escalate tension in WPS, Bayan Muna warns

Published April 13, 2021, 6:38 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate on Tuesday, April 13, aired his party-list’s opposition to the reopening of the joint exercises of American and Filipino soldiers, saying the move would only heighten the tension between the United States and China, and in the West Philippines Sea (WPS).

Representative Carlos Zarate

The House deputy minority leader warned that the 36th Balikatan Exercises  will place the Philippines “smack in the middle of two competing super powers”.

“It would be best for the Philippine government to assert its sovereignty on the WPS without playing one superpower against the other. If this  competition for dominance escalate,  we will surely be crushed in the middle of it all,” Zarate said in a statement.

“What can be done now is to call for a de-escalation of tensions in the WPS and to demilitarize the area. The Philippines should be in the forefront instead in the passage of  code of conduct among claimant countries in the South China Sea that  can be strictly implemented,” said the progressive lawmaker.

Zarate said legislators can also help ease the tension in the WPS. He called on the leaders of Congress seek the support of the Asian Parliamentary Association (AIPO) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to denounce China’s aggression in the South China Sea 

“As standing members of the AIPO and the IPU, we should use these venues to gather international support to oppose Chinese expansionism and militarization of the West Philippine Sea,” he proposed.

“We may not win through military might against China or any superpower but certainly we are strong in the legal, moral, and diplomatic arenas,” Zarate stressed.

The Balikatan Exercises of the US and Philippine armed forces opened on Monday, April 12, amid the ongoing tension in the WPS. 

China insists on its sweeping territorial claim in the South China Sea, including parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The joint military drills of around 1,800 Filipino and American soldiers will run until April 23, and will include a bilateral staff exercise, close air support training, subject matter exchanges, maritime security training, and humanitarian and civic assistance activities.