MANILA, Philippines – The US embassy in Manila denied reports that it is pulling out of Zamboanga City, where US troops maintain a temporary facility.
“There was a regular change of equipment recently, not a ‘pullout,'” said US embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina on Monday, October 10.
She did not elaborate.
A US C-17 transport aircraft was spotted at the city’s airport following pronouncements by President Rodrigo Duterte that he wants US troops out of Mindanao.
The Philippine defense establishment said the US has not informed them about a pullout.
Up to 107 US troops remain in Mindanao. The US facility inside the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City used to be the base of the defunct Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTFP).
US troops provide their Filipino counterparts intelligence and technical training. Its spy planes assisted during the 2013 Zamboanga siege to locate the rebels who occupied the city’s coastal barangays.
Duterte scrapped joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea and declared that this week’s war games will be the last. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, however, later denied Duterte mentioned the military drills would be stopped.
The President also put under review the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a military-to-military agreement aimed at increasing presence of US troops in the country as deterrence to China.
Last January, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of EDCA. – Rappler.com