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Westmincom mum on Duterte's comment telling US troops to leave Mindanao

US Marines with 3rd Marine Regiment quickly return to their Amphibious Assault Vehicle to grab extra equipment needed on the firing line during a bilateral amphibious landing by the Philippine and US Marines on North Beach at the Naval Education Training Center in Zambales, Philippines on April 21, 2015, as part of exercise Balikatan. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Matthew Bragg, file
ZAMBOANGA CITY — The military here could not comment on President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that US troops should leave Mindanao.
An official of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), who is privy to the presence of US military personnel but is not allowed to speak as it is beyond his level, said the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) headquarters is more in the position to discuss the matter.
“It is beyond our level and any statement relative to that pronouncement of our commander-in-chief will be from the higher headquarters,” the military official said here.
The military official said US military personnel are still operating under the status of foreign liaison elements at the Westmincom.
US military forces used to operate under the US Special Operation Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) with troops deployed on rotation basis since 2002, but operations were terminated after 10 years. 
US military forces were then deployed on the invitation of the Philippine government to assist and advise their Filipino counterpart to defeat the terrorism spawned by the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The military official disclosed that liaison personnel are currently working more on observation and recommendations to their mother unit.
Meanwhile, local officials here and the nearby province of Basilan and Sulu were saddened with the pronouncement of the president citing that the US military has provided a number of humanitarian projects during its presence here.
“We have reservations on the pronouncement of the president as we all know the assistance provided by the US troops in ensuring the security and peace and order of the city,” Acting Mayor Cesar Ituralde said.
Ituralde hoped the president will reconsider on his pronouncement.
“But we will highly respect the president as we are very much supportive of his plans and programs in this matter,” Ituralde added.
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