MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he would not allow the Philippines to be once again dragged into conflicts involving the United States, the country's treaty ally.
The President said that during his term, he would no longer allow Filipino troops to participate in US-led operations overseas, saying past involvement of Philippine troops in American missions have not brought significant benefits for the Philippines.
“Ang America, on the average mabuting kausap, pero 'yung policy ng America damay ng damay sa kung saan-saang giyera. This time sabihin ko sa kanila, no more. I will not allow the deployment of [troops] of my country," he said in a speech during the establishment of a farmers and fisherfolk outlet in Camp General Adriano Hernandez in Dingle, Iloilo.
“[Pumasok] tayo sa lahat ng giyera na wala tayong pakialam. Korea, maraming patay na sundalo, Vietnam, ang Philcag (Philippine Civic Action Group), nandoon. Hindi natin kalaban iyan,” he added, referring to the Korean and Vietnam wars where the US had played key roles and the Philippines sent troops, medical and engineering personnel.
Duterte also made this pronouncement as he blasted Kuwait for supposedly not recognizing the Philippines’ help during the Gulf War, which erupted when Iraq invaded and annexed the state in the early '90s.
The coalition forces were led by the US, then under the administration of George H. W. Bush. The Philippines had sent medical personnel to Kuwait during the war.
Duterte lamented that Kuwait did little to protect Filipino workers in its country, citing the case of slain domestic helper Joanna Demafelis.
Her body was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment in the Gulf state earlier this month, more than a year since she went missing.
“Ito ba 'yung kabayaran ng pinakita namin sa inyo? Nagpunta kami, nakipag-away, eh giyera ‘yun ng Amerika,” Duterte said during his brief conversation with the slain Filipino's parents, Eva and Crisanto, in Barangay Feraris, Sara, Iloilo.
Duterte visited Demafelis' wake Thursday afternoon.
The President said his latest pronouncement should also mean that the Philippines would refuse to be dragged into a possible conflict between the US and China over the South China Sea.
Duterte believes that China’s island-building in the disputed sea and its militarization of the area is aimed at the US. The Philippines claims part of the waters.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has downplayed the Philippines’ sea dispute with China in pursuit of improved economic ties with Asia’s largest economy.
The Philippines is a treaty ally of the US. This means Washington could defend Manila should it seek help in case of an armed invasion by a foreign country.
The US has also been helping the Philippines deal with terrorism, providing equipment and training to the Philippine military, one of the weakest in Asia.
The Philippines and the US regularly engage in joint military exercises for combat and disaster response, among others.