A rebel priest in the central Philippines called on the government to cancel a joint military exercise between American and Filipino troops scheduled later this month in the province of Leyte.
“The cancellation of the military exercise will put into action [President Rodrigo] Duterte’s talk about independence from the [United States],” said Father Santiago Salas, a non de guerre of a Catholic priest who serves as spokesman of the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
He said by stopping the military exercise, Duterte will be showing “a patriotic gesture to the ongoing peace process.”
The Philippine government and the communist rebels have recently concluded a fourth round of peace negotiations that aim to end almost five decades of armed conflict in the country.
“It is important for the president to turn his talk about independence from the U.S. into action,” said Father Salas.
“The continuing indirect control by the U.S. over the Philippines has held back progress and divided Filipinos,” he added.
American soldiers are expected to arrive this month in Eastern Visayas for war games that will end in May.
While the exercise is designed to improve combat expertise of troops, it also includes medical missions, book donations, and construction and repair of school buildings.
Father Salas, however, belittled the “social activities” as “cheap palliatives” to sugar-coat U.S. intervention in the country.