Press Release
August 29, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today asked Malacañang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to verify persistent reports that the United States is building military facilities in Mindanao under the guise of "temporary structures."

Saying the setting up of foreign military installations are not permitted even under the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement, Pimentel questioned the construction of $14.4 million (about P700 million) worth of "temporary" US military structures in such locations as Zamboanga City and Sulu, as confirmed by US embassy spokesman Lee Mclenny.

"The government cannot allow the setting up and maintenance of any foreign military base in any part of the country," the senator from Mindanao said.

"To allow any foreign government to put up a military base here would contravene the Constitution."

Pimentel said while the US embassy spokesman has denied that the US is building any permanent military base in Mindanao, there is no need even for costly "temporary" structures since American troops who come to the country for Balikatan for military exercises are permitted to stay here only for a few weeks.

He said the Palace and AFP should also look into reports that some American officers and men are continuously occupying the temporary facilities in Mindanao even when they are supposed to have returned to their stations in Okinawa, Japan or Hawaii after the completion of the Balikatan exercises.

Pimentel said such reports become even more disturbing in view of allegations that American troops have been accompanying Filipino soldiers in combat missions against Abu Sayyaf terrorists, if not actually taking part in the fighting.

"Under the VFA, American troops are allowed entry into the country strictly for training and exercise. But I would like to add they would be more welcome if they do civic work, on the side, not actual fighting against the insurgents," he said.

The US government further explained that the facilities being constructed are for logistical, medical and administrative services.

Pimentel stressed that no foreign military bases or permanent stationing of foreign troops can be allowed in the country in the absence of a military bases agreement.

Commenting on the assurance of a US congressional mission that the Washington will make good on its commitment to deliver $32 million worth of military aid to the Philippines next year, Pimentel expressed the hope that the US government is not pursuing a carrot-and-stick approach on the issue in the light of the alleged construction of American military facilities in Mindanao.

He noted that the assurance made by the five-man US congressional delegation, led by Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes that there will be no cut in military assistance package runs counter to the reported recommendation of the US state department to slash military aid to the Philippines from $30 million last year to only $11 million in 2008. The delegation visited the country last week.

Even Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte had admitted there will be a reduction in the US military aid although it will be minimal, Pimentel said.

The minority leader stressed that the Philippines cannot compromise its national sovereignty by relaxing on the ban against foreign military bases even at the expense of forfeiting substantial military assistance from its leading ally.

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