“I told them: ‘Don’t put your drones there because that thing blows up, and Davao will also blow up if they are in there.” — City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte
By EARL O. CONDEZA
DAVAO CITY — City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte revealed that on several occasions, the United States government had sought his permission to make use of the old Davao Airport as a station for its drones or spy planes.
Duterte, known for his anti-US pronouncements, told reporters in a briefing Monday, he refused such a request.
“They had wanted to have drones at our airport. I refused. I told them: ‘Don’t put your drones there there because that thing blows up, and Davao will also blow up if they are in there,” Duterte said.
He added that allowing the presence of US facilities would make Davao a target of attacks.
The mayor did not say when these negotiations started.
Back in 2002 the US launched a campaign against alleged Al Qaeda networks in Southeast Asia and launched US-PH Balikatan Exercises mostly in Muslim areas in Mindanao. In 2003, the twin bombings of the Davao International Airport and Sasa wharf killed a total of 30 people and injured 202 others. Mosques were also bombed.
Duterte refused entry of US troops amidst these incidents. He criticized US meddling such as what happened with US agent Michael Terrence Meiring who was injured after a bomb he carried exploded at the city’s Evergreen Hotel; Meiring was hurriedly ferried off by US FBI agents from the hospital.
The mayor said requests from the US kept coming even at the time when his daughter Sara was mayor from 2010 to 2013. He said Sara Duterte also refused their request.
“I don’t like trouble, I don’t like troubles to multiply. What I like is that in Davao, if we have problems, that’s for us to handle by ourselves, let’s try to solve it. Let us not create more trouble in Davao,” Duterte said.
Duterte criticized how the US has been pressuring the government to support its campaign against terror.
“We don’t want to fight, but they want us to send troops. We refused, but we are forced to accept because we have huge debts to big countries; and if you don’t cooperate, if you don’t contribute your troops, you have to pay your debts. We don’t have money to pay. Now there’s trouble, even if we don’t have enemies. It’s the CIA who hired them, it’s the CIA who’s paying for this,” Duterte said.
Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Southern Mindanao lauded the mayor’s stance. “We commend and firmly support the decision of the mayor not to allow drone operations in the city.”
Duazo said “the use of unmanned aerial vehicles/drone is a clear violation of our national sovereignty.”
“The problem with US drones is that they can be used for surveillance and they can be used for actual combat operations. This is due to the proposed access agreement which will allow US troops to be present all over the country including Davao City,” she added.
In related news, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda Ilagan warned that the US is pushing for stronger presence in the Asia Pacific following its global terror alert.
“The United States global terror alert appears to be setting the stage for further US military deployment and intervention in the Philippines and Asia Pacific,” the Davao-born legislator said.
“We find it suspicious that the terror alert comes amid global condemnation of massive spy drone deployment and attacks that have killed tens of thousands in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan, including civilians and children,” Ilagan added.
Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares also criticized the Aquino government for using its territorial dispute with China to justify more US troops presence in the country as it violates the Constitution and adds more tension in the region. (Earl O. Condeza /Reposted by )