In comments which might suggest a rift between Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and his defense secretary, the outspoken president accused the US of threatening regional stability by building “permanent” arms depots within the Philippines’ territory.
The Pentagon is building barracks and warehouses inside the Philippines as part of a deal with that nation’s military which allows the US to position troops, planes, and warships at several bases there. Duterte has repeatedly called on the US military to leave his country.
At the same time, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana insisted just days ago that the US-Philippines military relationship is still wholly intact, and that the plans for the Pentagon to do the construction were proceeding as planned, and unlike Duterte, he did not present this as a problem.
Duterte has been keen since taking office last year to shift the Philippines away from its traditional exclusive reliance on the US for military support, seeking to forge ties with Russia and China. There have been warnings from some analysts since this effort began that Duterte risks alienating the top military brass in his country, as close ties with the Pentagon have a long history and won’t break easily.