The recent death of Ahbam Juhurin, a fisherman in Basilan, in an accident involving a US vessel only affirms the devastation that the continuing presence of US military brings to the lives and livelihood of ordinary Filipinos, according to labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER).
Juhurin was killed after a US speedboat collided to his motorized boat in the sea of Basilan, Wednesday night on Balikatan’s second day, according to reports.
“Juhurin’s death is a clear proof of how US military operations in the country are carried out at the expense of ordinary people’s lives and livelihood. We are supporting calls to put under investigation the US soldiers involved in the accident,” said EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa.
EILER said since the start of the military exercises in 2001, not a single member of the US military has been held liable for the abuses and other criminal activities committed by US soldiers, including the rape case of “Nicole”.
“For this particular incident, who will be held accountable for the death of the local fisherman? Again, this tragedy highlights how our people are left vulnerable to violations of rights and properties under these military exercises,” said Escresa.
Escresa said the Philippine military’s claim that the US soldiers involved in the accident were not part of Balikatan only confirms the continued presence of US troops in the country whether there is Balikatan or not.
Military operations by the US will disrupt not only lives of fisherfolk but also of farmers and indigenous peoples, according to EILER. Areas for military exercises cover places where people source their livelihood.
“In 2010, US troops were also spotted in disputed land of Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of Presisdent Noynoy Aquino. Balikatan results not only to job displacement but also intimidation of the residents living near training grounds. These exercises were held in areas where there is strong resistance of peasants and farm workers against land grabbing,” she added.
The labor NGO also warned the Aquino government against using the ongoing tension over the Scarborough shoal as pretext for increased US military intervention in the country.
“While it is necessary to protect our seas from China’s incursions, seeking US support to supposedly resolve the dispute is uncalled for. The Aquino government must not let the issue get used by the US for the latter’s increased presence in the Pacific, as it would seriously undermine regional peace and security,” Escresa said.