ZAMBOANGA CITY: Philippine military officials were silent over reports that a small group of US troops deployed to Zamboanga City have started packing up after President Rodrigo Duterte canceled a joint patrol in the South China Sea and scrapped future war games between the two countries.
American soldiers are still maintaining a camp inside the Western Mindanao Command, which was previously used as headquarters of the defunct Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City, Basilan and Sulu.
Basilan and Sulu are part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The US military previously maintained a fleet of P3 Orion surveillance aircraft in Mactan Air Base in Cebu province in central Philippines and smaller unmanned aerial vehicles or drones in Zamboanga.
The aircraft are used in operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan and Sulu, and probably Indonesia and Malaysia to monitor activities of jihadist groups there allied with terrorist groups in the Philippines.
Security has always been tight in American military camps in Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu and even Filipino generals cannot go inside these installations without prior clearance with the US Embassy in Manila.
Even local journalists were not spared by some arrogant US troops who harassed news photographers and television crew and had threatened to smash their equipment if they take pictures of American soldiers deployed in public places in Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu.
A US C-17 Globemaster cargo plane was reported to have landed at the local airport where American troops loaded their equipment.
The Pentagon deployed hundreds of US troops in southern Philippines beginning 2001 and had joined Filipino soldiers in rescuing kidnapped American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham from the Abu Sayyaf.
Martin was killed during rescue operations in Zamboanga del Norte province while his wife was shot and wounded in the leg.