President Rodrigo Duterte claimed the United States started a weapons build-up in the Philippines.
He made the statement during a midnight conference on Sunday in Malacañang, accusing the US of sending arms to three provinces.
“They are unloading arms in the Philippines now – in Palawan, Cagayan de Oro, and Pampanga,” Duterte said.
Duterte has asked the US Armed Forces to halt the activity.
“I am serving notice to the United States Armed Forces. I will not allow it. Bawal e. It is not allowed,” he added.
Duterte further said that such an activity is prohibited in the treaty and threatened to “abrogate the treaty altogether.”
He also said that the US should stop involving the Philippines in the hostilities between America and China.
However, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla bellied Duterte’s claim about the American forces unloading arms in Palawan, Cagayan de Oro, and Pampanga, adding that the President may have read old information pertaining to past military exercises.
“The President’s announcement last night I think was checked by the Armed Forces and it was found out that there was no confirmed incident of this nature. Base po sa sinabi at naibigay sa aming report, wala naman pong ganyang report na nakuha sa mga lugar na ito at maaring ito ay report pa nung mga exercises noong mga nakaraang taon,” Padilla said.
“Noong nagkaroon tayo ng mga exercises na pangmalakihan noong mga nakaraang taon, authorized silang magbaba ng kanilang tangke diyan sa Subic Bay para gamitin sa exercises so it might have been borne out of those reports and we’re still checking how it came to be,” he added.
According to Padilla, the 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) gave US forces the permission to build facilities in some military installations, which will be helpful for the country’s preparedness in dealing with humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) situations.
“Kaya kung may ilalagay man na warehouse o mga pagtataguan ng mga bagay na kagamitan o anumang bagay, lahat ng ilalagay po diyan ay pwedeng gamitin sa mga HADR situation o pagtugon sa mga sakuna,” Padilla said.
The AFP spokesperson even enumerated the equipment that may be kept in the military installations, which include generators, rubber boats, vehicles, water purifiers, and shelter materials.
There are also fuel storage facilities, where troops can refuel during relief and rescue operations.
But Malacañang also issued a statement standing by Duterte’s earlier claim.
Presidential spokesman Secretary Ernesto Abella said that the president could have gotten his information about the US’ alleged unloading of arms in some provinces.
“If your question is where he got the information, I cannot tell you that. But he seems to be privy to some sort of information,” Abella told the media during a news briefing at the Palace.
Abella, though, could not confirm whether the President was referring to the facilities that the US planned on building at Philippine bases, as what was announced by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Lorenzana earlier said that under EDCA, the Pentagon said that they will start putting up facilities in certain EDCA camps, the first of which could be in Pampanga, with other facilities possibly constructed in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City, and the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan.
President Duterte was said to have known about this planned construction of US facilities.
But Abella said that Duterte could have been thinking ahead, issuing a warning about how depots are now allowed to be built under EDCA.
“If you go back to the transcript I think, I think it does make clear that he was saying that he will not allow if there is any downloading of arms. And he would also not allow the building of depots, so – which would be tantamount to building a permanent structure which are not allowed under EDCA,” Abella said.
But as GMA News Online has noted, President Duterte’s accusations against the American forces in the country showed that he was referring to an ongoing activity, not an anticipated one.
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