By Estrella Torres
The United States of America remains committed to its long-standing alliance with the Philippines in many areas including fight against terrorism despite recent calls of President Rodrigo Duterte for the withdrawal of US forces deployed in Mindanao, a US top official said on Tuesday.
John Kirby, spokesman of the US Department of State, said there was no official communication from the Philippine government “to that effect and to seek that result.”
“More critically, we’re going to remain committed to our alliance commitments in the Philippines and to that country,” said Kirby in his regular briefing in Washington DC, a copy of the transcript was posted in the US Department of State website.
He said the US and the Philippines “have a long, productive history” but admitted that historical ties of both countries are flawed with “past troubles.”
In an effort to mend fences with the Philippines’ staunch security and political ally, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. meanwhile flew to the US on Tuesday night to meet with US officials in Washington D.C.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay introduced himself to President Obama while Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith looks on, during the Asean-US summit in Vientiane, Laos, September 8, 2016. AFP photo
Charles Jose, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) however said Yasay is attending the United Nations General Assembly (Unga) in New York. Diplomatic sources said Yasay is expected to seek a meeting with officials of the US Department of State to explain Duterte’s comments on the withdrawal of US forces.
Duterte earlier said the US forces in Mindanao should leave the country since their presence put the Philippines in danger from the Islamic militants ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).
Molly Koscina, spokesman of the US embassy in Manila said that her office has not been officially contacted by Philippine authorities regarding Duterte’s statements on US forces’ withdrawal in Mindanao.
“We continue to focus on our broad relationship with the Philippines, and will work together in the many areas of mutual interest, including counter terrorism, to improve the livelihoods of the Philippine people and uphold our shared democratic values,” said Koscina in a text message to Inquirer.
Filipino Members of the group Kalayaan Atin Ito (Freedom This Is Ours) raise their fists next to the Philippines flag as they sail to Scarborough Shoal, June 2016. PHOTO by KALAYAAN ATIN ITO for AFP
Kirby said Duterte’s statements cannot be taken as official request for the withdrawal of US forces in Mindanao.
“I’ve seen the comments. I’ve seen them in press reporting, and what I can tell you is that we’re not aware of any official communication by the Philippine Government to that effect and to seek that result.”
He added the long standing security alliance between the US and the Philippines has stood strong in the last 70 years under the umbrella agreement of the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
“I don’t think it’s wise to try to make defense relationship decisions based on press reporting of comments,” said Kirby.
President Duterte said the continuing presence of US troops in Mindanao poses risks to the province and entire country citing America as one of the primary targets of Islamic militants.
Kirby agrees on such concern on US troops, saying: “We maintain concerns about the safety of our troops all around the world. It’s one of the prime considerations of American military leadership.” TVJ
Tags: American troops should leave Mindanao, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Balikatan, Bud Dajo massacre, Duterte, EDCA, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., John Kirby, joint exercises with Filipino soldiers on Philippine soil, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, JSOTFP, Maguindanao province, Mamasapano operation, Marwan, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Obama, otational presence of American troops in the Philippines, Philippine military, Philippines, U.S. has not seen any official communication by the Philippine Government to change the status of U.S. agreements and forces, U.S. remains committed to alliance with the Philippines, U.S. State Department, United Nations general assembly, US Department of State, US forces in Mindanao, Yasay