Abella: No scheduled pullout of U.S. troops in Mindanao yet

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Tuesday that there is not yet an order for American troops to leave Mindanao after President Rodrigo Duterte called for them to go in a Monday speech.

Read: Duterte: U.S. soldiers in Mindanao have to go

“It was simply an injuction, like a warning,” Abella said. “These were not directives to leave, but this was a context on why we have a conflict.”

Abella said Duterte merely explained that American troops may not be safe in Mindanao because Muslims have a “long historical and cultural wound” purportedly inflicted by the U.S.

“The real reason why there is conflict in Mindanao is because the Muslims do not trust lowland Filipinos and lowland Christians because of their implicit connection with the Amercians who have not decided, in any way at all, as far as their perception is, to redress, address or atone for the past wrongs,” he said.

Abella said the United States should take some “clues” from Duterte’s statements.

“These actions, these references that he’s making are intended to communicate to one and all that we need to be ready to chart our own course and find our own alliances,“ he said.

However, Abella said although the Philippines is charting a foreign policy that is “less dependent” on the U.S., the country is not yet turning back on its obligations with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA and the Mutual Defense Treaty.

Duterte reiterated this in a speech on Tuesday afternoon.

"We are not cutting our alliances, military as well," he said. "But certainly we will follow an independent posture, an independent foreign policy."

Philippine and U.S. troops to continue working together

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a press statement Tuesday that it has not been given any specific directive following Duterte’s speech and that Philippine-U.S. defense relations “remain rock solid.”

“The recent pronouncement will affect only a token number of American servicemen who are confined mainly in Zamboanga City,” the AFP said. “They provide technical assistance and training to their Filipino counterparts in combatting terrorism in the Philippines. The number has dwindled following the deactivation and pullout of JSOTF-P (Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines) several years ago.”

The AFP also said activities with U.S. troops lined up for the year will continue, with consultative planning activities for 2017 and beyond likewise remaining on track.

Minority lawmakers, however, said asking American troops to leave could harm the country amidst territorial disputes with China.

Read: Lawmakers urge caution on calls to pullout U.S. troops in Mindanao