MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte is ready to offer Philippine facilities to the United States (US) for its use if tensions between Russian and Ukraine spills over to the Asian region, the country's ambassador to Washington has said.
Philippine Ambassador to US Jose Manuel Romualdez said Duterte made the statement when he met with him last week in Manila while discussing US' invitation for ASEAN leaders to visit Washington for a special summit.
Duterte mentioned the invitation during his speech in Ilocos Sur last week, but he did not say anything about accepting the invitation.
“He says he might not be able to go (to the US) but to give them the assurance that if ever it is needed, the Philippines is ready to offer... whatever facilities, or whatever things that the United States will need, being a major, our number one ally, in using the facilities in the Philippines, without any restrictions,” Romualdez told reporters in a roundtable interview.
Romualdez cited the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US in explaining the President’s statement.
The treaty obligates both sides to help each other in case of external aggression.
“He says if they are asking for the support of the Philippines, he was very clear if push comes to shove, the Philippines would be ready to be part of the effort especially if this Ukranian crisis spills over to the Asian region, he offered that the Philippines would be ready to open its doors, especially to our ally the United States, in using our facilities, any facilities that they may need,” he said.
Romualdez said the facilities that may be opened for US may include those in Subic, Zambales and Clark in Pampanga.
The envoy added that ASEAN ambassadors in the US are meeting with the White House National Security Council this week to discuss sanctions imposed by the US on Russian oil and other economic sanctions.
“I’m pretty sure that the President meant this to be an emergency situation where let’s pray that it doesn’t happen but if this spreads to our part, in the Asian region, for some reason or the other, the President obviously sees the need for us to make a choice," Romualdez explained.
"Our choice is obviously, since we have an MDT with the United States, we have this special relationship, our military alliance, so he said he is allowing the use of facilities which I assume would be the use of Clark, for instance, for some of the aircraft that the United States would need for supplies and/or fighter jets and perhaps Subic where the US Navy will come in," he continued.
STOPPING BUSINESS WITH RUSSIA?
The ambassador said there is also a request from the Ukrainian government for the Philippines to stop doing business with Russia but is not sure if the request has been conveyed officially.
“There was a report that was made and I’m checking with the Ukrainian ambassador here in Washington DC... they’re inviting most countries or all countries, allied counties to stop doing business with Russia,” he said.
Duterte, Romualdez noted, is not keen on attending the US-ASEAN special summit to be held in the US this year.
“He said there is no real compelling reason for him to attend,” he said, pointing out that the President traditionally stays home during his birthday and also has to attend to making appointments before the ban takes effect as election nears.
The country had condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying that there was no need for the unnecessary bloodshed there, in what is considered as the biggest attack to a European nation since World War II.
Malacañang last week also called for the "immediate end" of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, noting that "war benefits no one."
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed or wounded and more than 2 million refugees have fled from Ukraine since Feb. 24 due to Russia invasion.