End China and US heightened presence and operations in Philippine seas

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounces heightened armed presence and counter-presence operations over the past two months by both the Chinese and US militaries within the country’s territorial waters and surrounding seas. These large-scale military operations are resulting in heightened military tension and raises the possibility of armed conflict, putting the Philippines and the Filipino people in danger of getting caught in the middle of inter-imperialist armed conflict.

The Philippines is now surrounded by US and Chinese military forces: on the West Philippine Sea, there are Chinese military facilities, aircraft and fully armed coast guard and “militia” ships; and on the Philippine Sea (east of the country) are two US carrier strike groups and submarines.

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From April to May, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese and US military forces maneuvered and counter-maneuvered in the South China Sea raising military tension. In mid-April, the Chinese government dispatched the Haiyang Dizhi 8 survey vessel together with a flotilla of coast guard and “militia” ships to harass the West Capella, a Malaysian-hired Panamanian drill ship conducting mining operations in the contested areas in the South China Sea.

To counter Chinese presence, the US military dispatched the littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords on April 28-29 to conduct patrols in the said area, heightening military tensions. On April 29, the US military launched two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from the US mainland which flew over the South China Sea.

In early May, the US dispatched the USS Montgomery and USNS Cesar Chavez to conduct patrol operations. On May 8, two more US bombers launched from Guam flew over the South China Sea and passed through the vicinity of the West Capella drill ship. Around the same time, the US Seventh Fleet revealed that three submarines under its command conducted war exercises in the Philippine seas.

Last week, the US military bragged that it has three strike group warships conducting operations across the Indian Ocean and Pacific. Two of these strike groups, the USS Theodore Roosevelt strike group, and the USS Ronald Reagan which left its Japanese port, both nuclear-powered warships and carrying a combined force of more than 10,000 troops, are presently operating in the Philippine Sea.

The Filipino people, as well as all peoples in the region, must denounce these maneuvers and counter-maneuvers by both the Chinese and US military and the relentless build up of military presence by both sides in the country’s within the territorial waters and surrounding seas. All these heighten military tensions and raises the possibility of outright military confrontation and full-scale war flaring up in the region.

The Duterte regime has displayed military, political and economic subservience to both the imperialist US and China.

On the one hand, it failed to assert the country’s territorial and economic rights under UNCLOS as determined by the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas in its 2017 decision, and allowed China to reclaim land and build military facilities in the land formations and sea features which are part of the Philippines’ territorial seas, exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf.

On the other hand, the Duterte regime continues to allow the US military to use the country as a launching pad for its military operations in the South China Sea and Philippine Sea. It has allowed the US to build military facilities inside at least eight AFP camps where they can preposition its weapon systems. Duterte has rolled back on its drama of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) after the US State Department issued a certification to pave the way for the regime to purchase US war matériel including helicopters, missiles and bombs to be used in the bloody war of suppression against the Filipino people.

Duterte’s bombast of exercising an “independent foreign policy” is mere rhetoric. In fact, he bows to the whims and dictates of his imperialist masters–both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump. As a result, the Philippines is bound to be caught in the middle of escalating inter-imperialist conflict.

The Party reiterates the Filipino people’s demand for China to dismantle all military facilities built within the country’s territorial waters and pay damages for the grave damage to the environment, and the marine and mineral resources siphoned by China in the course of its massive land reclamation. The Party also reiterates the demand for China to withdraw its armed Coast Guard and paramilitary ships in order to allow Filipino fishermen to fish unimpeded in Philippine waters and traditional fishing grounds.

At the same time, the Party reiterates the Filipino people’s demand for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty and all other lopsided military agreements between the Philippines and the United States. All these agreements give the US military extraterritorial rights in the Philippines and allow the US military to use the country’s airspace and airports, sealanes and seaports, as well as airwaves, military camps and other facilities and infrastructure for its hegemonic purposes.

End Chinese military aggression in the Philippines!
End US military intervention and abrogate the VFA and all lopsided military agreements!
End US and China military operations in Philippine territorial waters and surrounding seas!

End China and US heightened presence and operations in Philippine seas