Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the military headquarters in Quezon City to denounce the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the increased US military presence in the Philippines. The protesters, led by the nationalist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), burned a mock US flag and chanted slogans against the US-Philippines alliance. They also criticised Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for allowing more US troops to access Philippine military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed in 2014.
The US and the Philippines have begun their largest-ever joint military drills. The annual Balikatan exercises, which mean shoulder-to-shoulder will involve more than 17,600 troops from both countries.
The protest coincided with a meeting between Austin and his Philippine counterpart Carlito Galvez Jr., where they announced plans to designate four new agreed locations for US forces in strategic areas of the country, in addition to the existing five agreed locations.
The protesters, however, said the EDCA was a violation of Philippine sovereignty and a threat to peace in the region. They accused the US of using the Philippines as a pawn in its geopolitical rivalry with China and of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.
The protesters called for the abrogation of the EDCA, as well as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a 1999 bilateral pact that provides the legal framework for large-scale joint military exercises between the US and Philippines. They also demanded an end to US intervention in Asia and other parts of the world.