Today, on April 22, 2024, AGHAM joins the world in celebrating Earth Day, calling attention to various environmental issues that have been purposely neglected by the state: from reclamation, mining, pollution, bombings in the countryside, to warfare in our seas, mountains, and lands.

This day also marks the start of the weeks-long Balikatan war games, with over 16,000 combined soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States military converging for joint military exercises. It is a huge irony that on Earth Day, as President Marcos Jr. continually ignores the many environmental issues in the country, the government chooses to commence Balikatan exercises despite its known negative impacts on the environment.

Past Balikatan exercises have left behind ecological destruction and pollution. The army and naval maneuvers, along with live-fire exercises, results in considerable destruction to the natural environment, be it in our seas or forests. These exercises also consume large amounts of resources such as fossil fuels, and leave toxic waste and pollution in their wake. In 2019, it was estimated that emissions of the US military reached 1,267 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from 2001 to 2018, with almost 35% of this, or 440 million metric tons, attributed to its overseas war-related activities [1].

All this occurs while the Balikatan exercises, allegedly for regional stability, only serve to provoke further aggression from China, especially in the West Philippine Sea. The possibility of war in the region poses one of the biggest threats to the environment, as war-related activities such as bombings and explosions would cause even greater damage.

In the midst of the climate crisis and the ongoing drought brought by El Niño in the country, instead of allocating resources to respond to this disaster, the Marcos Jr. administration is spending money on Balikatan to appease the United States and maintain the unequal defense ties between the two countries.

We call on all Filipinos to celebrate Earth Day not just as a festive tradition, but as a challenge to see Earth in its entirety, to recognize the interconnectedness of the environment with different social and political structures in place. To work for a better environment is also to call for accountability and push for meaningful change that ensures a healthier and more sustainable future for our planet and all its inhabitants.#

[1] Crawford, N.C. (2019). Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War. Retrieved from


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