Duterte thumbs down plan to bring ‘Balikatan’ to Davao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 May) – A defiant Mayor Rodrigo Duterte once
again rejected a plan to bring the “Balikatan,” the joint
Philippine-American military exercises, to Davao City or to
Southeastern Mindanao, saying the move will serve as a magnet for
terrorist attacks.

Speaking at the regular meeting of the Regional Peace and Order
Council (RPOC), which he chairs, Duterte said that “somebody from the
top” conferred with him about the Balikatan war games two months ago.

The annual Balikatan (literally, “shoulder-to-shoulder”), opposed by
militant groups, is the focus of the two countries’ security alliance.

Duterte refused to identify who talked to him and if he was pressured
by Malacañang about it when asked by reporters why he brought the
issue up again. But Duterte stressed nobody can pressure him. “Basta
ayoko” (I really won’t allow it), he said.“I do not want American soldiers in Davao City or in the region,” said
Duterte, self-declared critic of America’s military presence in
Mindanao. He clarified, though, that he has nothing against American
citizens, many of whom are Davao residents.

Among those present in the RPOC meeting were officials from the Army,
Navy and Air Force.

Duterte opined that the bombings in Southwestern Mindanao, including
Cotabato City, were aimed at American presence in the area due to the
joint military exercises.

He said he refused to subject his area to that situation.

“[Balikatan] will just heat up the region or the city when there is
really no need for it here,” Duterte said. “We will just deal with our
own problems in our own way,” he added.

He said it is true that the country is battling against terrorists and
insurgents but military exercises with the Americans are unnecessary.

“I have full faith and confidence in the Armed Forces of the
Philippines and the Philippine National Police and the other security
forces of the republic,” he said.

Duterte said, however, that if the Americans really wanted to help the
Philippine military, let them do so in the technical department,
admitting that the American military is way ahead.

In January, Duterte also hit the holding of the Balikatan 2007
exercises pitched by the Americans as focusing on humanitarian
efforts. If the US really wants to help in humanitarian work, they
have to do it year round with or without terrorism, Duterte stressed.

Last year, the mayor told reporters that he rejected an offer for him
to become the next defense chief, citing his hesitation to work with
Americans, among many other reasons.

According to globalsecurity.org, the Balikatan series is an annual
event aimed at improving RP-US combined planning, combat readiness,
and interoperability while enhancing security relations and
demonstrating US resolve to support the Philippines against external
aggression.

The Philippines has signed a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Americans.
The first Balikatan exercise was conducted in 1991, the year the US
pulled out its troops from military bases in Luzon.

In 1995, the Philippines ended Balikatan because of a dispute over the
Visiting Forces Agreement. The agreement gave the US jurisdiction over
crimes committed by military personnel while on duty in a foreign
country. It was reinstated in May 1999 despite protests from the
Catholic Church and other anti-US sectors.

The VFA, hit my militants as another way of surrendering Philippine
sovereignty, provided for expanded military cooperation, which caused
the resumption of the Balikatan. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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