Defence officials in Philippines deny reports from the United States that American military contingents are examining the possibility of a military intervention in the country due to the war with ISIS aligned terrorists and other insurgents on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao and specifically the besieged city of Marawi.
US based NBC news earlier reported that Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis stated that the US will shortly make an announcement on whether US bombers will commence military strikes in Philippines.
This recent development would imply that the US is considering and indeed may be planning a strike on targets in Philippines that may be illegal according to international law.
“According to Philippine Star media outlet, the country’s Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Ano said that US Air Force engagement in military operations in the Philippines was impossible, and that Washington’s direct involvement in the Marawi siege was beyond discussion.
The military officials stressed that the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty entails direct military support only in the case of a military invasion by a third party country. However, they also expressed their gratitude toward the United States for backing the Philippines in their fight against terrorism.
In late July, the United States supplied the Philippines with two new Cessna 208B Grand Caravan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, 1,040 rocket motors and 992 rockets to fight against terror. In addition, Manila is expected to receive 250 rocket-propelled grenade launchers from Washington.
The so-called Marawi siege started on May 23, when the Philippine security forces stormed the city seeking to prevent two IS-affiliated groups from meeting, which sparked up a full-scale armed conflict. On May 25, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao, which is often subjected to attacks by IS-linked terror groups. So far, over 500 militants and 122 government forces servicemen have been killed in the Marawi battle”.
Existing treaties between Manila and Washington explicitly prohibit unauthorised US military action under the present circumstances. If the US does conduct illegal strikes in Philippines, this will be the second time in recent months that the US has acted unilaterally in its former colony.
In June of 2017, it was reported that Philippines had requested assistance from the United States in its battle against terrorists, but this claim was later totally refuted by President Rodgiro Duterte.
Duterte’s relationship with America has been a tenuous one ever since his election in July of 2016. Duterte has embarked an independent foreign policy that seeks to build historically good relations with both China and Russia. Duterte also has engaged cooperatively with China over the disputes in the South China Sea, a policy that is at odds with the provocative US policy of molesting Chinese water rights, a policy that Washington misleadingly calls ‘freedom of navigation’.
Meanwhile, Duterte has refused to travel to the United States in response to members of the US Congress questioning his war on drugs which remains popular among the vast majority of Filipinos.
Many in the US are eager to retain a foothold in Philippines at a time when Philippine public opinion is strongly with the independence minded President Duterte.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.