As the United States government made available at least US$100 million (Php5.88 billion) in foreign military financing to the Philippines to boost the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ defense capabilities and modernization, farmers expressed alarm that the fresh war budget will be used by state forces to further bombard and militarize peasant communities.
In particular, Southern Luzon farmers who experienced bombings and intense waves of militarization operations are opposing the new U.S. war aid to the Philippines.
The AFP may use the fund as it wishes according to U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson. Initially, the multi-billion budget will reportedly be used to procure heavy-lift Chinook helicopters from the United States. If approved, the amount would be more than double the estimated US$40 million in foreign military financing the Philippines received in 2022.
This foreign military financing by the U.S. government to the Philippines is so far the largest in the Indo-Pacific region or equivalent to US$1.14 billion (Php67.9 billion) worth of planes, armored vehicles, small arms, and other military equipment and training. The amount also includes US$475.3 million (php27.995 billion) worth of foreign military financing to Philippines, one of the biggest in Southeast Asia.
“Under the guise of maintaining peace in the disputed waters of West Philippine Sea, the U.S. military will hand down its military junk to the AFP which will be used to further militarize hinterland peasant and fisherfolk communities,” according to Tanggol Magsasaka Timog Katagalugan coordinator Orly Marcellana.
Marcellana said that in Batangas province, the 59th Infantry Battalion is wreaking terror and havoc in peasant communities in San Juan, Taysan, Lobo, Calaca, Calatagan, Rosario, and Nasugbu. Farmers, fisherfolk, women, and children in Batangas experience threats and harassment from the 59th IB during fake encounter operations staged by AFP soldiers. The rights violations happen against a backdrop of a string of development projects that would gravely affect farming and fishing communities in Batangas. The AFP is also acting as an investment defense force of coal-fired powerplant expansion projects in Calaca, and other mining and quarrying efforts in nearby towns.#