US military pulls out equipment in Zambo
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - October 9, 2016 - 12:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – US military units deployed here have begun pulling out some of their equipment, including transport vehicles.

The aviation security police confirmed the arrival of the US C-17 transport plane at the Zamboanga International Airport on Tuesday that picked up some service vehicles and equipment of the American troops.

Police Aviation Security Group chief Senior Insp. Roderick Salem said American security personnel have been securing the cargoes and service vehicles near the control tower and loaded it on the C-17 Globe Master which immediately flew out.

Salem said the US military coordinated the arrival of the transport plane with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). However, it did not specify the schedule for security reasons.

Officials from the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) declined to comment on the reported pullout of the equipment. The US embassy in Manila also did not issue a statement.

The US military under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) ended its mission last February 2015 and pulled out its troops who were deployed on rotation basis for 13 years, providing technical assistance and training to their Filipino counterparts.

However, the US military retained some of its personnel on liaison basis while leaving some service and equipment.

Earlier this month, President Duterte said he wants US military forces out of Mindanao and blamed America for inflaming local Muslim insurgencies in the region.

Duterte also said he would not allow government forces to conduct joint patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea with foreign powers, apparently scrapping a deal reached with the US military earlier this year.

Diplomatic style

Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the United States since he won the presidential election in May. He said he is charting a foreign policy not dependent on the US, and has taken steps to revive ties with China, which had been strained over longstanding territorial conflicts in the South China Sea.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez expressed support for Duterte’s independent foreign policy stance.

He said previous administrations had adhered to the policies of western countries, particularly the US and members of the European Union.

“And now for the first time, we are seeing that the President is pursuing our national interest. Maybe we are not just getting used to it,” Alvarez said.

He added the conduct of foreign policy is the prerogative of the President “and so the particular style of diplomacy of President Duterte should be respected.”

“Diplomacy is a matter of style of the leader. So the administration should follow his style of diplomacy,” he said.

Alvarez pointed out that countries that want to withhold or impose conditions on their aid to the Philippines as an offshoot of Duterte’s rhetoric and the administration’s bloody anti-drug campaign could do so.

He said it’s time “we assert our country’s sovereignty and avoid over-reliance on foreign aid.”

Alvarez expressed confidence that the government could still provide the necessary services to the people and pursue its development programs even with little or no foreign assistance. – With Jess Diaz





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