MANILA, Aug. 8 — Malacañang on Tuesday said that any direct participation in combat operations by US troops, including airstrikes, is prohibited under the Philippine Constitution and the mutual defense treaty between the two countries.
“While PH-US military alliance remains solid and robust, US military assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is limited to technical assistance, information sharing and training,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement sent to reporters.
Abella further clarified that under the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board with the US under the purview of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, standing protocols have been put in place that, even to this day, is being followed.
“It does not involve any boots on the ground nor any direct participation in combat operations, such as the air strikes reportedly being planned against Islamic State-inspired groups in the Philippines. This is a matter prohibited by our law and Constitution,” Abella stressed.
The Palace official added that there was no discussion of airstrikes when Duterte visited the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident in Marawi City last Friday.
Abella’s statements followed earlier reports which claimed that the US Department of Defense is considering a plan that would allow its forces to conduct air strikes against ISIS targets in the country, particularly in Mindanao area.
Philippine military and defense officials have earlier denied any talks with the US government regarding the use of its armed drones against ISIS-inspired terror groups in the Philippines.
Department of National Defense (DND) public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong said the DND has had no discussions whatsoever on the supposed use of US drones to strike against Daesh-inspired terrorist groups in the country.
“The AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, said that at present such a measure is not within the provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty. Direct military actions are only allowed during an actual foreign invasion by another state actor. Hence, such a proposition has to undergo a process and an agreement must be reached that should have the approval of both the highest officials of our nations,” Andolong emphasized.
The AFP is currently locked in fierce combat with Maute Group terrorists following a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon and ISIS “emir” in Southeast Asia last May 23.
DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana likewise said that no discussions regarding airstrikes from whatever platforms hitting local targets transpired at his level.
However, both officials expressed their appreciation for the reported desire of the US to help the Philippines fight ISIS-inspired terrorist groups in the country.
Terrorism has indeed become a global menace that the community of nations must unite against.
ASEAN of late has issued strong statements on the matter. (PNA)