Country opens doors to US troops if Russia conflict spills into Asia — Analysis
Ambassador: Philippines will host US troops if Ukraine crisis turns into a war between Washington, Moscow
Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has picked a side militarily in the US-led battle with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, pledging to host American forces if requested should the conflict bubble up into a hot war and spread to Asia.
Jose Manuel Romualdez – the Philippine ambassador to Washington – said Thursday that Duterte would open all facilities for US troops. This support could include the use of Philippine assets. “without restriction,”The envoy cited comments Duterte had made during a meeting last Wednesday.
“He says if they’re 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 Ukraine crisis spills over to the Asia region,” Romualdez said. “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.”
Though they’ve imposed severe economic sanctions and sought to isolate Russia over its attack on Ukraine, the US and its NATO allies have tried to avoid a wider war with Moscow. Vladimir Putin warned against any intervention that could be considered direct warfare with Russia. He suggested declaring an “interim no-fly zone” in Ukraine.
Duterte’s relationship with Washington has been rocky since his election in 2016. He criticizes US policies, and he seeks to build stronger relations with Russia and China. He had threatened to end Manila’s Visiting Forces Agreement with Washington, which allows US forces to train in the Southeast Asian country, then backed down last year after negotiating a larger aid package.
Ambassador Romualdez stated that the Philippines would support American forces fighting against Russia in accordance with the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. This treaty requires the US and Philippines to protect each other in case of attack by any third country. Subic Bay and Clark are two facilities the Pentagon could find valuable. They were where the US had its largest overseas military bases until it handed them to the Philippines in early 1990s.
Romualdez stated that US officials had scheduled a meeting with the White House’s security team and the ambassadors from its Southeast Asian partners to talk about the Russian sanctions. The President Joe Biden also invited Southeast Asian heads to a meeting scheduled for March 28. The ambassador said Duterte might not be able to attend, partly because the Philippines’ election season is heating up.
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The presidential election is slated for May 9 and Duterte’s six-year term is scheduled to end on June 30. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the country’s former dictator, is the frontrunner in the race. His running mate is Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte. Marcos Jr. last week called for Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty after previously drawing criticism for saying he didn’t see the need for the Philippines to take a side in the conflict.