US Marines came under fire from rebels in the Philippines today for the first time since beginning a training exercise in February. The Marines and Philippine soldiers returned fire, killing some of the guerrillas.
The incident is the first direct U.S. confrontation with the rebels there. It comes as President Bush is nearing a decision on a recommendation by top military officers to intensify and lengthen US operations in the Philippines. At issue is the U.S. role in the combat zone on the southern Philippine island of Basilan, where more than a thousand US Green Berets, Marines, and Navy Seabees are stationed. The rules of engagement currently prohibit U.S. forces from joining directly in the fight against the rebels, limiting them to training efforts and firing only in self-defense.
Basilan is the site of military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, a group of Muslim guerillas the U.S. claims has links to al Qaeda. But some Filipino officials say the Abu Sayyaf is merely a small group of bandits, not a global terrorist organization. They say heightened U.S. involvement would probably intensify domestic opposition to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a nation where the constitution forbids combat operations by foreign military personnel, except in a state of emergency.
Today we are going to talk about US military intervention in the Philippines.
- Walden Bello, Executive Director, Focus on the Global South
- Riya Ortiz, Filipino Organization for Women’s Advancement, Rights, and Dignity (FORWARD) and the Inang Bayan (Motherland) Movement, which is a national alliance working for democracy in the Philippines, and working to get US troops out of the Philippines