Duterte tells U.S. to stop planned construction in PH bases

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte told the United States to stop "unloading arms" in Palawan, Cagayan de Oro, and Pampanga, as he threatened anew on Sunday, January 29, to "abrogate" treaties with the country's longtime ally.

Duterte was reacting to US plans to start implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a military-to-military agreement signed by the previous Aquino administration allowing the US to build facilities and store military hardware in select Philippine military bases.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the US plans in a press briefing last week, saying Duterte had approved them. (READ: US set to build in 3 PH military facilities)

But the President said on Sunday that the planned construction would put the country in danger.

"You place us all in danger. You do that and I will be there when you start building, even before you build the first post," Duterte said in a press conference late Sunday evening.

Review, not cancel, EDCA

Lorenzana said it doesn't mean Duterte wants to cancel EDCA altogether. 

"He is not junking it, he is just concerned about the type of structures to be built. We will revisit the EDCA documents to see that the President's wish is followed," the defense chief told Rappler when sought for comment on the President's new pronouncements. 

Duterte said the "depots" that the US will be building are "permanent facilities" and are thus unconstitutional.

"Depot by any other name is a depot. It's a permanent structure to house arms. I don't even know if there's a nuclear tip now that they're unloading," said the President.

Joint drills can continue

Duterte digressed to explain that he has been talking to China about the maritime conflict in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), assuring the public that he will protect the country's claims.  

"Certainly, I have to confront them... But now investments are coming in. They have answered projects that Congress won't give Tugade," Duterte said, referring to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

EDCA was negotiated as the Philippines sought US assistance in defending its maritime claims in the disputed waters.

"Sa (In the) EDCA, they're not supposed to build permanent [structures]," the President insisted.

But Duterte said American troops may continue doing exercises with their Filipino counterparts, apparently referring to joint drills conducted under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

"Sige mag-exercise lang sila diyan, walang problema," he said. (They can conduct exercises, no problem.) – Rappler.com