US-Japan-Philippines Trilateral Summit makes the Philippines a battlefield for US-China conflict

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Press Statement
April 12, 2024

At a time of heightened violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by the US-backed Armed Forces of the Philippines, and rapid US military build-up in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. met yesterday with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the three nations’ first trilateral summit at the White House. The main objective of the summit is to strengthen military ties between the countries, particularly in the context of the US drive to war against China.

“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemns the ongoing military buildup by the US and its allies in Southeast Asia,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson, today. “We condemn the intrusion of Chinese naval and fishing vessels into the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, but ICHRP is deeply concerned by the collaboration between the Marcos Jr administration and the US, Japan, and their allies in openly preparing for war against China. The deployment of more troops, the military exercises, and the placing of medium-range missiles along the so-called First Island Chain are all preparations for war.”

Murphy added: “This military and economic collaboration between Marcos Jr, Biden, and Kishida is especially reprehensible given the history of violent invasion, mass murder, and colonization of the Philippines by both the United States and Japan within the last century, and Japan’s invasion of China and occupation of Korea.” 

The US invaded and occupied the Philippines in 1899–1913, when the US army rounded up peasants into concentration camps and declared entire areas of the country as battle zones, in which no distinction was made between combatants and civilians. Over 16,000 Filipino soldiers were killed in the fighting, with estimates of civilian deaths of up to 1 million. US colonial control was interrupted only by the brutal Imperial Japanese invasion from 1942–45.  

The “Independence” of the Philippines in the immediate postwar period institutionalized US military, economic and political control through unequal treaties and trade agreements. 

The Philippines has since served as a constant outpost of US militarism, especially with the relentless bombing of Vietnam from 1965–73. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) bases, the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) and the 25-year-long RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement give the US military access to all of the Philippines.

The US Counterinsurgency Doctrine has produced a series of brutal US-backed regimes—Marcos Sr., Ramos, Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Duterte, and Marcos Jr.—all too willing to wage war on their populations in a never-ending campaign to suppress dissent. 

The millions of Filipinos who are forced to seek work overseas as a result of the dire economic situation are evidence that this ongoing subservience to the US offers little for the average citizen in terms of social and economic stability. The trilateral summit is a back-to-the future event where the Philippines will be the United States’ frontline vassal in its looming confrontation with China. 

ICHRP denounces the trilateral summit’s objective to bolster security ties through joint military exercises by the US, Japan, and the Philippines. Washington’s anti-China war propaganda ignores the reality that these exercises primarily occur in the Philippines and further consolidate the Marcos Jr regime’s subjugation to the US and repression of its own people. 

Every diplomatic effort must be made to avoid war in Southeast Asia and to uphold the sovereign rights of all nations in the region, including the Philippines. The South China Sea should be a focus for negotiated demilitarisation, and events like the trilateral summit should be shunned by all parties.

Oppose violations of International Humanitarian Law!
Uphold Philippine sovereignty!
Oppose China’s aggression!
Oppose US militarism and its drumbeat for war on China!
Oppose the trilateral summit!

Further comment: Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson. WhatsApp: +61 418312301. Email: [email protected].