Military defying Duterte? They announced war games after Duterte’s remarks on US military presence in PH

 Could the Philippine military be defying President Rodrigo Duterte?

In his Opinion article on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Amando Doronila said that the military’s announcement of the joint US-PH military exercises, also called as war games or Balikatan exercises, seemed like a defiance to Duterte’s recent remarks about asking the US troops to leave Mindanao.

Duterte first made a statement about the US military presence in the Philippines when he said this on September 12: “The situation there (in Mindanao) will worsen. If they (Americans) are seen there, they will be killed.”

He further added that he could not bring up this concern during the ASEAN Summit in Laos, which US President Barack Obama also attended, out of respect. Then he said, “I do not want a rift with America. But they (American troops) have to go.”

He later clarified this statement on September 15, saying that he did not want the Americans to leave the Philippines. He specified that he might ask the US troops in Mindanao to leave to give the Philippine government and the Moro rebels to start peace talks.

Duterte also said on September 12 that the Philippines will stop engaging in joint sea patrols in the disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea with other foreign powers because it is a “hostile act” and he did not want “trouble.”

Despite these remarks, the Philippine military announced on September 24 that they will be hosting the 33rd iteration of the Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise with the US Marines and Sailors from the 3rd Martine Expeditionary Brigade and Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group from October 4 to 12 in Palawan and Luzon.


As Doronila has written, the joint military exercises is a “major show of force involving 1,400 US military personnel and 500 Philippine Marines in amphibious landing and live-fire exercises at a northern gunnery range in the Philippines.” He added that these war games can be considered as the “military muscle” to the Visiting Forces Agreement that the US and the Philippines signed in 1998.

CNN Philippines reported that the Brig. Gen. John M. Jansen, Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said that these military exercises between the US troops and the Armed Forces of the Philippines “is essential for sharpening our bilateral amphibious and humanitarian assistance capabilities, both hallmarks of the US Marine Corps.”

Doronila pointed out that this is the arrangement that Duterte is going to undo as the President tries to terminate the US military presence in the country. Duterte has repeatedly said in his speeches that he wants to pursue an independent foreign policy, which placed the Philippine military “on the spot.” Doronila said that this could have prompted the military to announce the joint exercises in October.

In addition to this observation, Doronila also said that Duterte seemed to be oblivious to the contradictions he is sprouting as he kept on repeating his goal to pursue foreign independent policy when he himself is making “friendly approaches to China.”

On September 28, President Duterte said that the joint military exercises in October will be “the last one” to avoid antagonizing China. Did he mean to stop the military from fulfilling the defense treaty and the VFA the Philippines signed with the US?

Just a few weeks ago, he even said that the Philippines need the US in the South China Sea because we lack armaments.

So Doronila asks: “What’s his (Duterte) clout – his foul mouth and insults to the United States and also to the United Nations?”

Sources: (,,,,


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