DESPITE President Rodrigo Duterte’s continued attacks against the United States, even threatening to revoke an agreement that allows American forces to conduct activities in agreed locations inside Philippine military bases, the country’s long-time ally recently donated counter-terrorism equipment to the Philippine Marines.
Three days before the conclusion of the 33rd joint military drill Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) on Tuesday, representatives from the US Embassy in the Philippines’ Joint US Military Assistance Group (Jusmag) delivered 24 pallets of new military equipment to the Philippine Marine Special Operations Group (Marsog) at Clark Air Base, Pampanga.
The military equipment was turned over by US Army Maj. Anthony Nelson of Jusmag as part of a US government grant program aimed at assisting security forces conducting counter-terrorism operations.
The equipment, for use in counter-terrorism and fast-boat operations, included tactical Harris radios, ballistic helmets and diving gear.
“This equipment will help enhance the communications, situational awareness and protection of Philippine security forces actively engaged in counter-terrorism operations in southern Philippines. The Philippine Marines will also receive radio training as a part of the US grant program,” a statement from the US Embassy said.
Besides the Marsog, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force also received six pallets of the new communications equipment from the US government.
Duterte had warned that Phiblex 33 would be the last in his six-year term even as he threatened to scrap the Philippines-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA that was implemented by his predecessor.
On Wednesday, the President stood firm on his decision to end the annual joint war games between the Philippines and the United States.
In his speech during the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard, he said he had told Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana “not to prepare anymore” for next year’s military exercises with the US.
A major drill between the two long-standing allies is the “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder), which has been the cornerstone of Philippine-US military relations since the US bases in the Philippines were shut down more than two decades ago.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said only the US can stop China’s grip on the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
During the closing ceremony for Phiblex 33, Carpio said the Philippines should continue joint patrols with the US to protect its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.
“There is only one power on earth that can stop the Chinese from poaching in our EEZ. That is the US,” he added.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the country would not be able to survive external threats without the US, disputing a statement made by Lorenzana that the country could do without Washington’s military support.