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US Navy visit reaffirms strong ties with AFP

THE commander of the US Pacific Fleet visited Manila on Wednesday to reaffirm long-standing ties between the American Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a few days after the United States provided technical support in the ongoing campaign to rid Marawi City of Maute group terrorists.

During a closed-door meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, US Pacific Fleet Commander Scott Swift said they remained committed to combating terrorism in the region.

“The Philippine Navy is a valued and enduring ally of the US Navy and a close partner of the Pacific Fleet,” Swift, who is the chief of the Hawaii-based fleet, the world’s largest fleet command, said in a statement.

“We continue to build on the strong relationship we have and to reaffirm our commitment to working together to face shared challenges,” Swift added.

His visit may signal a revival of a former vibrant diplomatic relationship between Manila and Washington, despite the anti-American rhetoric from President Rodrigo Duterte in his first months in office.

Both Cayetano and Swift noted the 70-year-old alliance between the Philippines and the US.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano
Swift said the long-standing alliance has contributed to peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region.

“As part of the security partnership, the United States supports the Philippines in its efforts to strengthen national defense, and improve its ability to respond to natural disasters, terror threats, piracy, and other transnational crimes,” Swift said.

Aside from Cayetano, Swift also met AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año, and Philippine Navy Flag Officer in-Command Vice Adm. Ronald Mercado.

He stayed in the country from June 11 to 14.

The 50-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty says that each country will “act to meet the common dangers” if one is attacked.

The relationship between the Philippines and the US turned sour after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, calling US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” for criticizing the President’s bloody war on drugs.

Duterte has said many times that he wants to shift the Philippines away from Washington and closer to Beijing and Moscow.

In September 2016, Duterte ordered a halt to regular wargames between the Philippines and the United States, saying that they angered China.

In the same month he also told the American troops to leave Mindanao as Duterte blamed Washington for the conflict and security threats in the South.

Duterte said American troops in Mindanao should leave because they are in danger of being abducted by US-hating terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

“The Special Forces [in Mindanao], they have to go,” he said.

But the US Embassy in Manila and military officials confirmed over the weekend that American Special Forces were providing technical assistance to the Philippine troops trying to retake Marawi City from terrorists.

During his visit, Swift expressed his command’s support for the anti-terrorist actions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Marawi.

He also expressed his condolences to the families of 13 Marines killed in close combat in Barangay Lilot Madaya outside Marawi City on May 9. With Francisco Tuyay

Topics: US Navy , Armed Forces of the Philippines , United States , Marawi City , Maute group , Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano , Scott Swift
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