The president of the Philippines has shut down base construction in the Philippines, accusing the U.S. of building “permanent arsenals.”
President Rodrigo Duterte warned the U.S. against constructing permanent facilities and offloading weapons, threatening to tear up the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) if the U.S. did not stop immediately, Reuters reports.
In accordance with the provisions of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the U.S. is building three military bases in the Philippines. Duterte initially threatened to tear up EDCA; however, the base construction was approved last week, Rappler reported. Now, the president feels the bases will stir regional instability.
The main point of contention is the movement of weapons to permanent facilities in Palawan, Cagayan de Oro, and Pampanga.
“They’re unloading arms in the Philippines now … I’m serving notice to the armed forces of the United States. Do not do it, I will not allow it,” Duterte said in a televised address.
“You place us all in danger,” he added.
“In EDCA, they’re not supposed to build permanent structures. A depot is by any other name a depot. It’s a permanent structure to house arms,” the president explained.
“I do not even know if there is a nuclear tip that they are unloading,” he stated, adding that he would “abrogate” the VFA if the U.S. did not cease and desist.
He is, however, allowing joint drills to continue.
Duterte accused the U.S. of trying to draw the Philippines into a conflict with China.
“Now, the missiles of China are pointed at the American expeditions here. The first areas to be hit by the missiles are in the Philippines,” he said.
“I will not allow my people to needlessly die … I would be the worst president if I allow that. That’s the way it is. [The U.S. is] looking for trouble. They are planning an expedition. Go ahead. We will not participate,” Duterte added.
Duterte said he considered destroying the U.S. structures and going to war, but he decided that talking it over would probably be the better solution after looking at the available resources.
The base construction debacle is the first major issue between the Philippines and the U.S. since Trump took office.
Duterte previously stated that he would stop fighting with the U.S. once Trump replaced Barack Obama.
“I don’t want to quarrel anymore, because Trump has won,” Duterte said immediately after Trump’s victory last November, but it appears that old habits die hard.
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