President Rodrigo Duterte does not want to see foreign soldiers in the Philippines.
During a press briefing before his departure for Tokyo, Japan, for a three-day official visit, the President said he had been looking forward to seeing no foreign military in the country.
“I would like to say this with all candor, I look forward to the time when I no longer see any military troops or soldier in my country except the Filipino soldier. Hangarin ko po yan na wala na akong makitang sundalo sa ibang bayan kundi ‘yung sundalo ng Pilipinas,” Duterte said.
“I really hate it. I don't want it. We don't need it. We are not going to war and there's not going to be any war in the future,” Duterte stressed, referring to the presence of foreign troops.
The President also said that it would be unlikely that a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan would not discussed during his trip.
“I do not believe that we have a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan. To my mind…I may be wrong but I have yet to come across an agreement or a piece of paper, which says that we are in this arrangement of Japanese troops—military troops if you mean visiting my country,” Duterte said of a possible VFA with Japan.
But in his departure statement, the President said he would discuss with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “politico-social and defense cooperation particularly in maritime domain awareness and maritime security.”
During his visit in Beijing, China last week, Duterte announced a ‘separation’ from the United States in terms of military and economic ties.
He later clarified it was not meant severance of ties but only to push for an independent foreign policy.
Despite Duterte's pronouncements opposing US military presence in the country, outgoing US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said there are "about a hundred" US soldiers still in Mindanao helping their local counterparts in counterterrorism.
"We have about a hundred, few soldiers helping to counterterrorism. That is far reduced from what it has been over the years since 2002 when our special operations task force was here," he said in a television interview on Tuesday.
"That task force ended and in its place, we have advisers and others who are continuing to help the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in their efforts," he added.
Forget about EDCA
Meanwhile, Duterte on Tuesday again lashed out at the US, saying he did not start a fight with Washington. Rather, it was Goldberg who made comments about his controversial rape remark during the campaign period.
He said the superpower could forget about an existing military agreement between both countries if he were to be in power longer.
Duterte said the US could "forget" an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the Philippines, if he stayed longer, without elaborating.
"Sabi nila separate. Separate, yes. We have the EDCA. Well, forget it. If I stay here long enough, one day that EDCA will, if it's an executive agreement then I will just…" he said without finishing his statement.
The US, he said, should not treat the Philippines "like a dog with a leash", adding to confusion about the future the longtime allies' ties.
No more joint patrols, exercises
The EDCA provides for increased rotational presence of US troops in the country. It also covers the use by US forces of Philippine military bases.
Duterte recently announced that the Philippines would no longer join joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea. He said that it could be construed as a hostile act by China.
The President also announced that the recent joint military exercises between the Filipino and US troops would be the last under his term.
The presence of US forces participating in the joint military exercises is covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement, a treaty the Senate ratified in 1998.
The Philippines also has an existing Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.
Despite his rhetoric against the US, Duterte has said that the Philippines would keep its existing treaty obligations. — with a report from Reuters/RSJ/NB/KBK, GMA News