Duterte tells US not to build military depots in Philippines

Manila, Jan 30 (IANS) President Rodrigo Duterte has accused the US of building “depots” in the Philippines, warning that he would abrogate a bilateral treaty if Washington did not stop, a media report said on Monday.

“Here is my worry. They (the Americans) are making depots, they are unloading arms in the Philippines now, in Palawan, Cagayan de Oro and Pampanga,” he told a news conference in the presidential palace, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

“I am serving notice to the Armed Forces of the US: Do not do it. I will not allow it,” Duterte said late on Sunday night, citing a provision in the Visiting Forces Agreement signed by both countries that no permanent facilities should be built on the Philippine territory.

“A depot by any other name is a depot … It is prohibited under the law. It’s not allowed by the treaty,” he said.

Duterte said building a depot and stoking them with live ammunition was dangerous to the Philippines and its people, describing it as a magnet for attack.

“I won’t allow that. You place us all in danger,” he said, vowing to stop the construction.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said recently that the US military would start building facilities in Philippine military camps in 2017.

Lorenzana told reporters that the plan was part of the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that Washington and Manila signed in 2014.

Aside from the Basa Air Base in Pampanga province near Subic and Clark, the former US military bases that were converted into economic zones, the US armed forces also plan to build facilities in Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, the Fort Magsaysay on Luzon island, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro, and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu in central Philippines.

The Philippine constitution bars the presence of foreign military bases, troops, or facilitates on Philippine soil.

However, Duterte said the US troops can still conduct joint military exercises with Philippine troops.