PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has no reason to worry about the United States troops in Mindanao as they can protect themselves against the terrorists.
"Yung mga fears ni Presidente that they (US soldiers) might be subjected to reprisal of the Muslims, hindi naman siguro mangyayari yun, kasi nasa loob sila ng kampo," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told members of House Committee on Appropriations during his budget presentation.
The Department of National Defense (DND), together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), is asking for P178.2 billion budget for 2017.
Earlier President Duterte said he wants American troops to pull out of Mindanao as they could be high value targets of the terrorists because of American brutalities during the 1900’s pacification campaign.
In responding to Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago’s question on the deployment of US troops in some part of Mindanao, Lorenzana said so far there are 107 American soldiers in Zamboanga.
"At the height of their presence about five years ago, there were 600 embedded to the units as brigade level. Recently in 2012, these troops were reduced to this number, 107, and they are now located in one compound in Camp Navarro, Zamboanga. They are composed of 50 marines, 7 army, 20 special forces, meron ding civilian na konti tapos navy," Lorenzana said.
The official assured the public that the foreign troops are not part of the AFP military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and other suspected terrorists but limited only to short training of soldiers in the area.
"Ang ginagawa po nila ay they are conducting limited civil military operations within the area in conjunction with our military personnel, the Armed Forces, but the bulk of their job is to manage ‘yung kanilang assest diyan sa Zamboanga City, have two systems providing intelligence surveillance reconnaissance to our troops in Mindanao," Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana is not in favor of pulling out US troops as the Philippine military need them to bolster their intelligence and surveillance capabilities.
To allay fears of Duterte the Cabinet secretary said "let us remember that these people are also combatants, they are not civilians that are subject to kidnapping by terrorists. When they go around, I think they go to Cebu or Manila but they don’t spend their time unarmed in the area of Mindanao."