- Defense Secretary played down president’s fears of possible kidnapping of US troops
- He said US forces well-guarded, are armed and trained combatants
- He also said their presence and assets are valuable to AFP
MANILA, Philippines – Allaying President Rodrigo Duterte’s fears of a possible kidnapping of US special forces by the Abu Sayyaf, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said such a scenario is improbable because the Americans are well-guarded and well-armed combatants themselves.
“Yung mga fears ni Presidente that they night be subjected to reprisal of the Muslims, hindi naman siguro mangyayari yun [The President’s fears that they might be subjected to reprisal of the Muslims, that seems improbable],” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying.
“They are located in a compound inside Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City. If they go out of the camp, they are either accompanied by our soldiers or are armed. Remember that these US soldiers are combatants,” he added. “Let’s remember, these people are also combatants. They are not civilians subject to kidnapping by terrorists.”
Lorenzana pointed to the value of having US troops remain in Mindanao, especially their surveillance equipment which the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) does not have.
“They are using two types of assets: a small aircraft with night flying capability and three drones,” he said. “We still need them there because they have the surveillance capability that our Armed Forces don’t have.”
The Defense Secretary also revealed that he has already explained to Duterte how important it would be for the country to strengthen its alliance with the US and its other major allies.
“I think it’s just right for us to remain allied with the US. They are still the dominant military force in this part of the Pacific. Our neighbors, Japan, Australia, South Korea, have a military alliance with the US,” he said.