Hundreds of US troops training Filipino soldiers in counter-terrorism in the southern Philippines should leave, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday.
Duterte said the presence of American forces in Mindanao only worsens the situation in the conflict-wracked region.
“These special forces, they have to go,” he said in a speech in Manila. “I do not want a rift with America, but they have to go. The situation will only be more volatile.”
More than 1,000 US special forces are stationed in Mindanao to train Filipino soldiers in fighting terrorism.
Duterte’s statement comes after a spat with US President Barack Obama in a regional summit in Laos.
Obama called off a one-on-one meeting with Duterte who threatened to swear at him if he brought up the issue of human rights abuses under his deadly anti-drug campaign.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte’s statement “reflects (his) new direction towards ... an independent foreign policy.”