Fact-finding team inspects US troops and facilities

By Bong Garcia


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INITIAL findings of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (Lovfa) showed that the presence of the American forces in Zamboanga City is not violating any provisions of the VFA between the US and Philippine government.

This was disclosed Thursday afternoon by Senator Rodolfo Biazon, the co-chairman of Lovfa that is tasked to verify all allegations against the continued stay of the American forces in the country.

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However, Biazon said they are not yet making a conclusion based on the initial findings, citing they will continue to do the evaluation based on their ocular inspections.

Biazon and other members of the Lovfa arrived Thursday morning in Zamboanga City and inspected the American forces that are stationed inside Philippine military bases.

Some of the American forces are stationed inside Camp Don Basilio Navarro that houses the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters, Camp General Arturo Enrile and Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) that houses the 3rd Air Division.

Biazon said there are two issues that they are checking and these are the allegations that the American troops are involved in actual combat and whether they are establishing bases in this part of the country.

So far, Biazon said there were no reported American soldiers who were injured or killed in any of the clashes taking place in Mindanao, “but Filipinos, yes.”

He said there is no truth to the allegations that the American troops are establishing bases, citing all of the facilities here are administrative in nature.

“As a former soldier, it is difficult for me to make a conclusion that the Americans have establish their own military base in this part of our country,” Biazon said.

He said all of the US troops’ facilities inside the Philippine military bases are temporary in nature.

He cited that one facility, a barracks inside Camp Enrile has been turned over to the Army’s 1st Infantry Division as stipulated in the Term of Reference (TOR) of the VFA.

The TOR states that all structures of the US forces will be left behind for the use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lovfa co-chairman Congressman Antonio Cuenco called on the people or group complaining about violations regarding the US troops’ presence to substantiate their allegations.

“So far we have not found any violation in so far the VFA between the US and RP is concern,” Cuenco said.

Cuenco said that providing information to Filipino troops by the Americans does not tantamount to any violation.

Earlier, Presidential Commission on the VFA Undersecretary Edilberto Adan said the US soldiers only provide technical assistance to the Philippine troops as part of the joint military exercises popularly known as Balikatan.

“We are happy to be able to get information from any source whatsoever so that we can attain our objectives in demolishing these enemies of our state,” Cuenco said.(SunStar)

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