Duterte: American soldiers stirring unrest in South
Just days after saying that the Philippines will follow an independent foreign policy, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday shooed US Special Forces out of Mindanao, saying their presence was stirring unrest in the region.
“Those US special forces, they have to go. They have to go. In Mindanao, there are many white people there.
They have to go,” the President said in his speech during the oath-taking of new government officials in Malacañang.
The President said the United States’ violent pacification program in Mindanao continues to stir unrest, adding to the tension in the region.
“Look at the bodies there. Paano tayo, paano mag-hold up [How will things hold-up]. For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land. We might as well give it up,” Duterte said.
The President said he has long wanted to “review foreign policy.”
“Di ko lang masalita noon [I just could not say it before] out of respect [because]I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go,” he stressed.
Duterte said American soldiers are prime targets for the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
“The situation in Mindanao will get more intense. If Americans are seen there, they will really be killed,” he warned.
“Kukunan ng ransom iyan, patayin (They will be hostaged for ransom. They will be killed). Even if you’re a black or a white American, basta Amerikano ka [Even if you’re black or white, as long as you’re American],” he added.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte’s statement reflects his government’s new direction towards coursing an independent foreign policy.
“He has made reference to the unrecognized, unrepented and unatoned massacre at Bud Dajo in Sulu by the Americans, hence our continued connection with the West is the real reason for the ‘Islamic’ threat in Mindanao,” Abella said in a statement.
The Palace official said the American silence on the matter “lacks congruence with its ‘moral’ position.”
“Mr. Duterte is on morally firm ground by breaking up walls that cover dark corners in US-RP relations,” Abella said.
The Philippines and the US had formed a Joint Special Operations Task Forces, a unit that trained Filipino troops in fighting terrorists in Mindanao. The task force was based in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City, where the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command is based.
However, the program that started in 2002 officially ended in early 2015.
Despite the termination of the US mission, some US troops stayed in the country to assist in the counter-terrorism programs in the South. It was not immediately known how many American soldiers remain in Mindanao.
The Philippines and US also signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement under which the US can rotate troops in the Philippines for extended stays. The Visiting Forces Agreement signed by the two countries allow the holding of the annual Balikatan military exercises by Filipino and American troops.
Duterte shocked Asian leaders last week when he veered off his prepared speech and launched a tirade against the US for the killings in the Philippines when it was an American colony from 1898 to 1946.
The President presented a picture of Filipinos killed by American soldiers.
Just before flying to the Asean summit, Duterte also launched a barrage of insults at President Barack Obama for his alleged plan to question him over his war on drugs.
bama canceled a planned meeting with the President. The two briefly met during the summit and Duterte later clarified that he did not curse the US president.