Nahuhubaran na ang “Makataong” Tabing ng Balikatan 2009
MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not taking any chances when the annual RP-US Balikatan military exercise begins in April in three Bicol provinces.
A new battalion of 500 soldiers will be deployed to beef up security in the region to thwart any attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA), said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sodusta, 9th Infantry Division chief.
“I have the 49th Infantry Battalion—a new battalion—that will be deployed next month to areas covered by the exercise,” Sodusta told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo by phone.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced on its website Sunday it had ordered the NPA, its armed wing, to attack Filipino and American troops and launch tactical offensives during Balikatan.
“We are prepared for that… so far we are conducting several meetings and seminars to talk about security,” Sodusta said.
Now on its 14th year, the RP-US Balikatan exercises will be staged in Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon—provinces identified as remaining strongholds of the NPA.
But the military stressed the exercises in Bicol would comprise only humanitarian projects like medical missions and engineering works.
In Legazpi City, Col. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the Army’s 901st Brigade, said they were prepared for attacks by the NPA.
“It only shows [the CPP-NPA] is antidevelopment, anti-poor and anti-peace. Who would not want schools and roads to be built and medical and dental missions to benefit the people?” Bernardo said.
But the National Democratic Front (NDF), the CPP’s political arm, has charged Balikatan (meaning shoulder to shoulder) was a front for another agenda.
Greg Bañares, Bicol spokesperson of the NDF, said Balikatan could be used to spy on revolutionary movements and as to allow US soldiers to intervene in the armed battles between government troops and NPA guerrillas. With reports from Delfin Mallari Jr. and Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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