War-Tax Resisters and Peace Activists Award BAYAN-USA with Grant to Fight U.S. Military Expansion in the Philippines

Traveling through what he dubbed the “single most consequential region” for America’s future, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ominously spent the days prior to “Tax Day” this year in countries in the Asia Pacific including the Philippines, where he gloated over plans to vastly expand U.S. military presence in the Philippines and spend $425 million over five years on a maritime security initiative in the region. Carter praised the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the U.S. and Philippines, which opened the door for American plans to station U.S. military personnel, aircraft, ships, and potentially long-range missiles in the Philippines. He also announced plans to open up even more Philippine bases to be used for U.S. facilities in the future—beyond the five locations already announced in March in a midnight deal forged with outgoing Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino.

“How fitting that Carter chose Tax Day to flaunt U.S. imperialism’s grandiose plans to spend American taxpayer money on military expansion in the region,” said BAYAN-USA Chairperson Bernadette Ellorin. “Tax Day is a bitter reminder that a struggling U.S. worker pays 54 cents of every dollar in taxes for U.S. military spending, leaving little for education, healthcare, employment with livable wages, and safety net programs. For Filipino Americans, the pill is even tougher to swallow, knowing that a portion of those taxes funds increased human rights violations, environmental destruction, and trampling of the sovereignty of our homeland by the U.S. military.”

Carter used the specter of China to justify increased U.S. militarization in the region, stating that Americans “have helped provide the necessary security and stability for this … region to thrive with our strong defense engagements here. The United States has long provided the necessary reassurance, an attractive and appealing reassurance, and worked to keep the peace here in the Asia Pacific.” Ellorin countered: “Carter should stop pretending that U.S. involvement in the region leads to peace when the exact opposite is true. The firing of U.S. long-range missiles, patrols of American naval vessels in disputed territory, and joint military exercises between the U.S. and Philippines and neighboring South Korea have only aggravated tensions with China, heightening concerns that the Philippines will just get caught in the middle of power plays between the two giants. The Philippines needs to stand up for itself against the incursions of all foreign aggressors, be they the U.S., China, Japan or others. Since Aquino failed dismally to uphold Philippine interests, the next President must make Philippine sovereignty a priority by terminating the EDCA, industrializing the country, and developing our own capacity for defense.”

Carter’s trip also coincided with the 32nd “Balikatan” joint military exercises between the U.S. and the Philippines, which were provocatively conducted in some of the contested areas of the West Philippine Sea. Carter announced that the U.S. would leave some of its Balikatan participants in the Philippines on a rotational basis to “improve command and control with the Filipino Armed Forces.” Ellorin refuted: “The Americans come to the Philippines, play their war games, and leave U.S. military personnel, bases, and ships here like a bad hangover. Carter fails to mention that the U.S. has been providing advisors and the blueprint for counterinsurgency programs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for years, during which time the AFP has had a notorious human rights record. Depositing more U.S. military personnel and arms in the Philippines will not resolve the fact that the AFP is implicated in hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, and violent displacement of innocent people over the past six years under President Aquino.”

Also on Tax Day, in a show of solidarity with the Filipino people, conscientious war tax resisters in Northern California awarded BAYAN-USA with a grant to support the alliance’s work to oppose increasing U.S. militarization in the Philippines. “BAYAN-USA is grateful for the courageous action to support us taken by conscientious war tax resisters, who are individuals who choose to take all or part of the amount they would otherwise pay to the federal government in income taxes, and instead re-direct that money toward making peace,” said Ellorin. “We hope to forge solidarity with even more people in the U.S. by together building the movement against a common enemy: U.S. imperialism.”