Philippines ready to back US if dragged into war

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president is ready to open the country’s “facilities” to American forces under a 1951 mutual defense treaty if Russia’s war on Ukraine escalates and drags the United States in the fighting, Manila’s ambassador to Washington said. said Thursday.

Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said President Rodrigo Duterte made the remarks during a recent meeting in Manila where the president also expressed concern over the global economic impact of the ongoing crisis. The Philippines condemned the invasion and voted yes on a UN General Assembly resolution that demanded an immediate halt to the attack on Moscow and the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine.

Duterte, whose stormy six-year term ends in June, enjoyed closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping while often critical of US security policies in the early years of his presidency. But Romualdez said Duterte told him the Russian invasion was a mistake.

“He says that if they ask for support from the Philippines, it is very clear that of course if the efforts materialize, the Philippines will be ready to be part of the effort, especially if this Ukrainian crisis spills over into the Asian region. “, Romualdez said during an online briefing with Manila-based journalists. “Give them the assurance that if needed, the Philippines is ready to offer any facilities or things that the United States United will need as a major – our number one ally.”

Duterte did not specify in his remarks which Philippine facilities US forces would have access to, but Romualdez said these could include the sprawling free ports of Clark and Subic Bay northwest of Manila, which were among the most major U.S. air and naval bases outside the continental United States until U.S. forces withdrew from them in the early 1990s.

There was no immediate comment from Duterte or his office.

The Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 commits the United States and the Philippines to come to the aid of each other in the event of an attack. U.S. officials have repeatedly assured their Philippine counterparts in recent years that they will honor their treaty obligations if Philippine forces, ships or planes come under attack in the disputed South China Sea, including by China.

US national security officials have scheduled a meeting at the White House this week with ambassadors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss expanding US sanctions on Russia. , including President Joe Biden’s ban on Russian oil imports, Romualdez said.

Romualdez also said he learned that Ukraine had called on many countries, including the Philippines, to ‘stop doing business with Russia’, but said he did not know if the request had been officially forwarded to Manila. .

Another topic discussed during the meeting with US officials this week is Biden’s invitation to ASEAN heads of state to attend a special US summit on March 28. Duterte, 76, might skip the event because it falls on his birthday and also because it will happen during the Philippines’ busy election season, Romualdez said.

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