Women's group raises alarm over presence of 11,000 American troops in Philippines

MANILA (Xinhua): An alliance of women in the Philippines on Sunday raised the alarm over the presence of more than 11,000 US troops in the country to participate in the upcoming annual joint military drills.

More than 11,000 U.S. and 5,000 Philippine troops will participate in the joint drills, which will run from Monday (April 22) to May 10. Many US troops arrived in the Philippines in March for the joint combat activities leading up to the larger Balikatan, or shoulder-to-shoulder, exercise.

Clarice Palce, secretary-general of GABRIELA, said that the women's group "raises alarm over a potential rise in violence against women, particularly prostitution and sexual abuse, in areas designated for US military bases during the upcoming Balikatan exercises."

She slammed how unequal military agreements, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, have effectively provided US soldiers with a license to commit crimes and abuse Filipinos without facing accountability under Philippine law.

The Philippines and the United States signed in 1998 the VFA allowing joint Philippine-U.S. military operations. The Philippine Senate ratified the agreement in 1999, seven years after the closure of the last U.S. base on Philippine territory.

"We must not allow the United States to drag our Filipinos into its imperialist wars of aggression and to escape accountability for violating our women and trampling on our sovereignty," Palce said. - Xinhua

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