American soldiers numbering between 500 and 600 are based indefinitely in the Philippines.
They belong to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), which works alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a strictly noncombatant role.
The US troops, stationed in Mindanao, advise and share information and conduct joint civil-military operations with the AFP, said Edilberto Adan, executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Some of them are in Manila performing support roles such as procurement, Adan said.
In 1992, the Philippine Senate voted to end US military presence in the country.
But according to J. Eduardo Malaya, the then spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement allowed the continued presence of the JSOTF-P although the US forces are not allowed to engage in combat operations.
Malaya added that the presence of US troops was authorized by the Philippine government under the Mutual Defense Board of the two countries.
The Aquino administration has been reviewing the Visiting Forces Agreement, a move made in response to Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s call for its abrogation.
Much of the local objection to the agreement centers on the constitutional provision prohibiting the presence of foreign military bases, troops and facilities in the Philippines, “except under a treaty” ratified by the Senate and the people in a referendum and “recognized as a treaty by the other contracting state.”
The Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 11, 2009, that the Visiting Forces Agreement had been duly concurred in by the Senate and recognized as a treaty by Washington. The high court also noted that it was “simply an implementing agreement to the main RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.”
In March 2010, the high court again upheld the legality of the agreement, which Washington regards as an executive agreement that does not require approval by the US Senate. Ana Roa, Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives