Bicol fishers start seeing US military personnel ahead of Balikatan exercises
The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday said small fishermen in the Bicol region started seeing an unidentified number of US military personnel as early as first to second week of January conducting ocular inspection in various parts of the Bicol.
In an initial report forwarded by Lakas ng Mangingisda ng Bicol (Lambat-Bicol), the regional chapter of Pamalakaya, it revealed that US military personnel were seen conducting initial surveillance operations in Barangay Mayngaran in Masbate City, Barangay Bagacay, Marintuk, Lalaguna and Balatukan in Mobo town, barangays Marcilla, Dapdap, Panisihan, Buenvista, Armenia, Sawang, Buenasuerte and Magsaysay in Uson town, and in the municipality of Cataingan proper all in Masbate.
Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap also said Lambat-Bicol also noted the early presence of US troops in Oas town, Albay, particularly in the farming villages of San Pascual, San Miguel and Talisay, where the 5th engineering battalion of the Philippine Army is currently detailed.
The Pamalakaya leader said a number of US troops were also seen in Barangay Liyang, municipality of Irosin in Sorsogon province
“They are coming by batches and appeared to be gearing for an active stunt as if the entire Bicol region is the new Iraq or Afghanistan for Washington D.C in 2009. The US military troops are seemed gearing for an all-out military intervention that could develop into a US war of aggression in the region. This senseless Balikatan exercises must be stopped at all cost,” added Hicap.
Pamalakaya also assailed the looming imposition of six month to one year fish ban in the entire Bicol region once the RP-US joint military exercises go full blast this April. The group said in anticipation to the US war ships expected to carry some 3,000 regular US troops and personnel who will participate in the six-month joint military training, the government would resort to ban fishing in Ragay Gulf, Albay Gulf and Sorsogon Bay, three of the major fishing areas in Bicol and home to more than 100,000 small fisherfolk.
Pamalakaya said BFAR-Region V will ban fishing in the coastal municipalities and cities of Tiwi, Malilipot, Malinaw, Bacacay, Sto. Domingo, Manito, Rapu-Rapu, Legaspi City and Tobaco City in Albay province, and Prieto Diaz, Bacon, Gubat, Barcelona, Bulusan, Matnog, Casiguran, Bulan, Joban, Donsol, Pilar Magallanes, Castilla and Sorsogon City in Sorsogon province, and nearby coastal municipalities in Masbate province.
“We saw it coming. There’s no recourse for us but to face and fight this anti-fisherfolk Balikatan exercises in the sea, in the parliament of the street and in the court of public opinion. Over a hundred thousand fishermen will lose their livelihood to this crazy and shameful military stint known as Balikatan exercises. We will not allow this puppet government to sacrifice our rights and livelihood to please their Washington-based military puppeteer,” the group said.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is expected to mobilize thousands of government troops and impose its intimidating presence in fishing communities to provide blanket security to US troops participating in the joint military exercises,” added Pamalakaya.
Pamalakaya said the RP-US Balikatan exercises were not only meant to gain future access to guerilla fronts maintained by the CPP and the NPA. He said the joint military training exercises will also cover intelligence and military operations against militant groups in the region which the AFP and the US State Department labeled as front organizations of the CPP in the Bicol region.
“The sinister agenda of Balikatan exercises include intelligence work on various people’s organizations, their leaders and mass members highly critical of US military and economic interests in the Philippines, and very vocal against the reactionary troops and ruling puppet regime in Malacañang. This is Vietnam War in the making,” it said. #