The Philippines will respect the military accord signed between it and the US in 2014 that allows Washington to use Manila bases and boost its presence in the Southeast Asian region, a minister said. 

Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed by the previous government a day after President Rodrigo Duterte asked US special forces to leave Mindanao island, Efe news reported. 

In an interview with a local radio station, Yasay clarified that Duterte meant that Manila will respect all agreements signed with any country, including the US, as well as the EDCA. 

He even denied any change in the country’s foreign policy with the US, adding that Duterte was only trying to save the lives of the Americans who could be targeted by Islamist groups such as Abu Sayyaf. 

The presidential spokesman also said that Duerte’s statements on the exit of US troops were only meant as a warning and signalled a shift towards a more independent foreign policy. 

The Philippines and the US strengthened military cooperation in 2014 and are traditional allies in the region, sharing a common strategy to counter China in the territorial conflict in the South China Sea. 

However, their bilateral ties have worsened since Duterte came to power following US criticism of his controversial anti-drug campaign which has claimed close to 3,000 lives since June this year.