US not building arms depots in the Philippines, says envoy

MANILA • The US ambassador to the Philippines yesterday rebuffed accusations by President Rodrigo Duterte that American troops were building arms depots in five Philippine bases, in breach of a security deal.

Mr Duterte on Sunday said the United States had stockpiled weapons, including tanks, in three locations in the Philippines, which could provoke China and put his country in harm's way.

Mr Duterte threatened to scrap a defence treaty between the two allies that is crucial to US strategic interests in Asia.

"We are not building a weapons depot anywhere in the Philippines," Ambassador Sung Kim told a forum at the influential Makati Business Club. He added that facilities due to be built were to store equipment for disaster response.

He said the US could not build anything on Philippine bases against the consent of the Philippine government, and its facilities are "not related to weapons".

Philippine military officials on Monday contradicted Mr Duterte and said his concern had been looked into, but there was nothing to back it up.

Mr Sung said he had several lengthy discussions with top security officials, including the defence minister, and promised to address some concerns. He said the US-Philippines alliance remained robust.

Mr Duterte's spokesman Ernesto Abella declined to say what the President's source of information was when he said American armouries were being built.

Mr Duterte's remarks came after the Pentagon approved upgrades and the construction of barracks, runways and storage facilities this year under a 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement that the outspoken Philippine President has scorn for.

The defence agreement covers the rotational deployment of US ships, aircraft and troops at five bases, and the storage of equipment for humanitarian and maritime security missions.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'US not building arms depots in the Philippines, says envoy'. Print Edition | Subscribe