Duterte claims US turning Philippines into an outpost

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte claims US turning Philippines into an outpost
In this May 9, 2018 photo, American and Filipino troops participate in an amphibious landing exercise simulating a beach assault during the annual Balikatan exercises in San Antonio, Zambales.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Americans are turning Subic into a military base, making the Philippines vulnerable in case a war involving the United States breaks out, President Rodrigo Durerte said.

Citing military reports, Duterte said Americans have stored "several" weapons in the Philippines and is planning to make the country an "outpost."

"Do you know that there are so many depots...maraming mga armas dito na nakalagay sa Pilipinas ang Amerika (that Americans have stored several weapons here in the Philippines)?" Duterte said in a pre-recorded public address last Monday.

"And do you know that they are slowly converting Subic into an American base?... These are the things that are known to us because I have the reports and I have also the assessments given to me by the Armed Forces of the Philippines," he added.

Duterte made the claim to respond to criticisms against his demand for the US to pay the Philippines if it wants to keep the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a 1998 pact that allows Filipino and American troops to hold joint drills in Philippine soil.

Critics have likened Duterte's demand to "extortion" but officials insist the Philippines can seek payments since it faces potential risks because of the presence of American soldiers and equipment. Duterte announced a plan to terminate the VFA last year after the US canceled the visa of senator and former police chief Ronald dela Rosa, one of the key personalities behind the president's controversial war on drugs. Duterte has deferred the abrogation of the VFA twice.

"The theater of war, if ever it starts, is in (South) China Sea. We insist on being Americans, we should be provided with the arms and armaments that’s capable of at least - that would place us on equal footing with the other countries at war with us because China would really target us. But Americans are not giving anything," Duterte said.
"You know, I have talked to so many military guys. They said, the war games, it's coming I think in May. Americans bring with them their firearms, they display their equipment and everything...They teach Filipinos how to use them and after that, they go home and bring back their equipment...That is the lamentation of the Filipino," he added.  


The president warned that the Philippines could be dragged into a destructive war because of the presence of American forces. He said a war could reduce the Philippines "into a barren land where you cannot plant anything."

"They will just make us an outpost and then you become pro-American? If (a conflict) erupts? who gets hit first?" Duterte said.
"The meltdown will start in Palawan. It's the province that’s facing the Spratlys and everything there...In a worst-case scenario, if a crook launches a rocket, it will lead to chaos. And the Philippines invariably would be drawn into the vortex of a conflict that is called war," he added.

Duterte said even the Bicol region, which is located in the southern part of Luzon, would also be affected if a war escalates.

"If a war erupts and it becomes a nuclear war, and the weapons are here and the American ships are in Subic, what do you think will happen to Bicol? It’s too far away, but you know, it will also melt just like what would happen to the rest of the Philippines.

Duterte said the fate of the VFA would depend on how the Americans "behave" toward Fiipinos but did not elaborate.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte has been briefed about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which he said allowed the US to use Philippine military bases and preposition its troops and defense equipment in the country.

He said there is a need to check whether the Philippines is really benefiting from the 2014 deal.

"I think the president wants this to stop... He needs to think about whether to drop EDCA also because that is the legal basis that allows American soldiers and equipment to remain in our country," Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

Roque later on clarified that there is no indication yet from the president that he wants the EDCA scrapped.

"He (Duterte) is saying that is the reality and that is the context behind the demand for the payment," the Palace spokesman said.

Asked if the administration has plans to seek a renegotiation of EDCA, Roque replied: "None so far. Right now, he (Duterte) wants compensation for the presence of troops and their equipment here."

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