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Philippines says no to U.S. patrols, will ask China for military aid

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    U.S. Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wade through a creek after taking part in the joint US-Philippines amphibious landing exercise dubbed PHIBLEX Friday at Naval Education Training Command in San Antonio township, Zambales province northwest of Manila.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this Tuesday photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, gestures as he poses with Philippine Army officers during his visit to the Army headquarters in suburban Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines as U.S. and Philippine forces opened their first large scale combat exercises.

MANILA, Philippines >> The Philippine defense chief said he told the U.S. military that plans for joint patrols and naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea have been put on hold, the first concrete break in defense cooperation after months of increasingly strident comments by the country’s new president.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also said that 107 U.S. troops involved in operating surveillance drones against Muslim militants would be asked to leave the southern part of the country once the Philippines acquires those intelligence-gathering capabilities in the near future.

President Rodrigo Duterte also wants to halt the 28 military exercises that are carried out with U.S. forces each year, Lorenzana said. Duterte has said he wants an ongoing U.S.-Philippine amphibious beach landing exercise to be the last in his six-year presidency as he backs away from what he views as too much dependence on the U.S.

“This year would be the last,” Duterte said of military exercises involving the Americans in a speech Friday in southern Davao city where he lashed out at the U.S. anew and repeated his readiness to be ousted from office for his hard-line stance.

“For as long as I am there, do not treat us like a doormat because you’ll be sorry for it,” Duterte said. “I will not speak with you. I can always go to China.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. government is not aware of any official notification on curtailing military exercises. He said the U.S. remains focused on its security commitments to Philippines, with which it has a mutual defense treaty.

“We think comments like this, whether they are or will be backed up by actual action or not, are really at odds with the closeness of the relationships that we have with the people of the Philippines and which we fully intend to continue,” Kirby told reporters.

Duterte, who took office in June and describes himself as a leftist politician, has had an uneasy relationship with the U.S., his country’s former colonial master.

Duterte has lashed out against U.S. government criticism of his deadly crackdown against illegal drugs, which has left more than 3,600 suspects dead in just three months, alarming Western governments and human rights groups.

But while some Filipino officials have walked back on Duterte’s sometimes crude anti-U.S. pronouncements — early this week he told President Barack Obama “to go to hell” — Lorenzana’s comments show for the first time that the Duterte administration will act by rolling back cooperation with the U.S. military.

With the turquoise backdrop of the South China Sea, U.S. Marines and allied Filipino combat forces barged ashore Friday on amphibious vessels in a mock assault on a Philippine beach in San Antonio town in northwestern Zambales province.

Pounding rain prevented military aircraft from joining the beach assault drills, but the U.S. and Filipino forces managed to rapidly come on shore to take out a “notional target,” said Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, a U.S. military spokesman for the drills.

Asked to comment on the possibility that the joint maneuvers will be the last under Duterte, Hollenbeck replied, “If it’s the last, so be it.”

“I have nothing to do with that and we are going to continue to work together, we’ve got a great relationship,” he said.

Lorenzana said some U.S. military officials have expressed concern about where the countries’ 65-year-old treaty alliance is headed under Duterte.

Duterte’s moves to limit the presence of visiting American troops will impede Washington’s plans to expand the footprint of U.S. forces in Southeast Asia to counter China.

“President Duterte’s shoot-from-the-hip style of parochial democracy is deeply troubling,” said Carl Thayer, an expert on the South China Sea. “If Duterte moves to curtail U.S. rotational military presence from bases in the Philippines, this would undermine the U.S. ability to deter China not only in defense of Philippines sovereignty but regional security as well.”

Despite the difficult stage in the countries’ relations, Lorenzana remained optimistic that those ties would eventually bounce back.

“I think it’s just going through these bumps on the road,” Lorenzana told a news conference. “Relationships sometimes go to this stage … but over time it will be patched up.”

Duterte’s falling out with Washington will not necessarily spread to U.S. allies such as Japan, for example, which has committed to deliver patrol ships for the Philippine coast guard and has signed a deal to lease five small surveillance planes the country can use to bolster its territorial defense. The planes may arrive as early as next month, Lorenzana said.

The U.S. and Japan have helped the Philippines develop its capabilities to safeguard and defend its territorial waters amid China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea. Under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, the U.S. and Philippine militaries twice staged naval exercises near the disputed waters.

While taking a critical stance on U.S. security policies, Duterte has reached out to China and Russia. Lorenzana said he has been ordered by Duterte to travel to Beijing and Moscow to discuss what defense equipment the Philippines can acquire from them.

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    • agree. It is time to part ways. Let them fend for themselves. Duterte has failed to protect his people against terrorists in the southern part of this country. Let him deal with ti alone.

        • Not sure if Duterte is the one that is going to be sorry. The ones that are going to suffer, is the rest of the country. This country is not strong enough to stand on their own. Sad to say that many family and friends of our Filipino brothers and sisters here are going to have to deal with the consequences of electing this guy.
          I am not so sure now if Bing Bong Marcos may not have been the lessor of the two evils. Kind of like what we are dealing with here; trying to decide where Trump or Hillary will end up being worse.

        • I wonder how much he was paid.

          This is not good news for Hawaii’s friends, and friend of Richardson School of Law, who protects the reef ecosystems in the Phillipines in spite of a horrendously corrupt political system there.

          John Robert’s Citizens United made corruption legal in the US so I don’t know who is more corrupt. Still, good luck to those who have devoted their lives to protecting the marine environment of the Phillipines. Duterte chose to ally with a government that will take everything alive and leave a marine desert…hoping you can persuade them to see the future value of a living ecosystem.

        • Notice how the pictures of President Rodrigo Duterte with military officers look exactly like NK Kim and his military flunkies.

          Both are supot, functionally illiterate, legend in their mind, stepchildren who have no clue what it means to be a responsible adult.

          Both manage low class economies, millions of people living below the poverty line. Both care more for taking care of #1 then actually helping their citizens.

          Sad to see such a contaminated gene pool.

    • Wow and we thought Marcos was bad, what’s wrong with the Filipino people. It’s like if we elect Trump for President, what would the world think of us.

      • That is the problem in the U.S. The U.S. is more worried about what the rest of the world thinks about us than actually doing things that are right for us. It is like the kids in school that are more worried about their looks and who they hang out with but not worried about their education.

      • If we elect Trump I think he will get out of PI. After all it’s the people who elected this guy into office. Let them sweat it out. We should just get out right away.

      • Judicial Watch says Hillary will eventually be subjected to a special counsel, even if elected president. Bill is the real crook of the couple, evident when looking at how he played the world game financially, including having two personal llcs used as pass throughs for large amounts of cash from third world countries seeking something from State, that he used to rake off sums for the couple’s personal fortunes. Trump is not under investigation by anyone. FBI director Comey’s brother’s law firm does the taxes for the Clinton Foundation. We in Hawaii are familiar with pay to play. Tje Clintons do it on a planetary scale. Let’s put hate aside and try to work our way out of the mess we’re in as a nation.

    • Bingo! China now rules the seas there with their man-made military islands. China manufactures cheap goods to trade with a poor Country such as the Philippines.

      • China military expansion is due to their world trade of cheap goods. It’s all relative to the money they never had generated by their World Trade. Our past Presidents/leaders let it happen under their watch. How can’t the people here see the correlation? or is it that Politics has. We need to Make America Great again! Jobs, is the number one priority that’ll not only solve unemployment numbers but needed to build America prosperity and build America’s respect militarily. What’s really missing is a President that’s respected in the World! Obama’s a sheep in President’s clothing.

      • The Chinese Communist Party’s economic development plans are to build a rail road in every African country, ultimately connected to China. Using coal burning trains. The S China Sea, in the plan, will supply natural gas to replace the thousands of coal burning power plants in the country.

  • Dependency on the US waning in favor of negotiating with your neighbors who are close by and collegial instead of as a super power who metes out favors to inferiors with conditions often imposing hardships to its population. Down with imperialism!

    • The Philippines would prosper with better trade deals and investments from China. Money rules today, much more than Military might if you ain’t got a President that’s pc and lame. We got screwed with the IRAN deal that’s only delaying their goal of being a NUKE power. Russia’s expanding with land grab and Syria. China’s built the man-made islands for it’s military, etc. We’ve lost a whole lot being laxed militarily, loss of jobs because of bad trade deals, MONEY is the name of the game, with it you can expand in whatever way you want. China has cheap labor and in reality they produce goods way cheaper than we do on our soil. Consumers are surviving on Chinese cheap goods but in reality we are building their military might and their trade deals abroad. Maybe the Philippine President sees the writing on the wall, China controls the seas, China has the cheap goods, China has the money to make investments in the Philippines, China etc. .

  • Looks like this country is going to turn into another Venezuela in a hurry or probably invite another coup from their military in the near future. Seems like these third world countries find out the hard way every time when they elect a dictator to solve their problems.

  • Tell Duterte to go to the hot place below. Let’s enter into a defense pack with China to defend their “interests” in the South China Sea.

  • I used to live in the Philippines during the Marcos era. The RP is the most dysfunctional country in SE Asia. While the rest of SE Asia understands the importance of a counter-balance to China, only the Philippines, with its Trump-like president, is ready to suck up to China. Careful what you wish for. I see marshall law in the future.

  • “Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also said that 107 U.S. troops involved in operating surveillance drones against Muslim militants would be asked to leave the southern part of the country when the Philippines acquires those intelligence-gathering capabilities in the near future.”

    The US should just pull ALL TROOPS out RIGHT NOW! Why wait…you don’t want the US. OK. Ba-Bye.

  • Best news of the week! Less dependence on us means less money being shifted towards an ungrateful “ally”. Now all we have to do is stop the visas, stop the transfer of funds from the US to the Philippines, and bring an end to the most prolific export from that nation to the world…the service industry worker.

      • Seriously speaking. Duterte is playing a dangerous game. Does anyone really think that the Chinese or the Russians would roll out the welcome mat for citizens of the Philippines to enter their respective countries? What purpose is there in Duterte’s rhetoric? Throw off the yoke of the American Imperialist? Cheap propaganda with potentially catastrophic consequences.

        China and Russia have abysmal human rights records. If anyone wants to start talking about expelling non-citizen workers consider the fact that we even have such a thing in the United States and that it is largely tolerated because of our view that everyone deserves a right to make a life for themselves.

  • I wonder if Duterte’s willingness to tell Obama to go to hell is matched by an equal willingness to tell his grandchildren to stop studying English in school and start studying Chinese instead.

    • (Or, to say that his country no longer wants the billions of US$ in “remittances” from citizens of Filipino ancestry sent to relatives and that constitute a significant portion of national income?)

      • Duterte is fixing on becoming another North Korea with executions for anyone not agreeing with a little dictator.
        Maybe even Putin wouldn’t mind taking Duterte under his wings since he is very familiar with executing people who stand in his way.

  • Fifty plus years ago a popular seer predicted China will be the enemy to fear. The same psychic predicted a popular young anti-Christ leader will emerge around the time period. A false sense of security and placid, sarcastic attitudes of Asian countries should instead keep us alert. The World’s Powers are shifting and our weakness can be readily seen by the cracks of dissension recently noticeable in our country. May God keep us safe and bless us with His protection !

  • It does seem that Duterte has decided to make a deal with the ChiComs. His tough talk initially against the ChiCom’s power play in the South China sea and the disputed islands were to set up a sweet heart deal for himself with the ChiComs. Pure speculation on my part but I would imagine a lot of “cheddar” has been transferred to him by the ChiComs.
    By the time the Filipinos wake up, it will be too late.

  • It’s funny how the circle works. First the US had to defend China, Korea, and the Philippines from Japan, and now Japan wants the US to defend its interests in the Pacific from China, Korea, and the Philippines. Just in the space of my lifetime.

  • Time to part ways! Majority of the Filipino people feel as do Mr. Duterte, they take America for granted. Let them stand on their own and see how far they get without foreign aid or protection, lets keep the aid money and spend it on us for a change. We need to take care of our own problems for a change, never mind giving it to a country that do not respect us…….LET THEM GO and don’t look back.

  • The Obama Administration especially John Kerry blew this one and let it get out of control. The lack of a military presence in the Philippines is a major blow
    to our national security.

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