The United States government has stopped an arms deal with the Philippines to sell thousands of assault rifles to the Southeast Asian country amid ongoing tensions between Washington and Manila, a new report says.
According to the deal, the Philippines’ national police would have received some 26,000 assault rifles to push ahead with President Rodrigo Duterte’s battle against drug trade, Yahoo News reported Tuesday, citing Senate aides.
However, the US State Department halted the deal after Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opposed it because of what he referred to as Manila’s human rights violations.
According to sources in the Senate, Cardin voiced his opposition to the deal upon receiving a prenotification from the State Department. The department informs Congress of new weapons sales before they are finalized.
The US State Department has refused to comment on the allegations.
The news came days after Duterte announced a military and economic “separation” from the US, calling on American military personnel to leave the Philippines.
His call drew attention to the rotating force of 600 US troops who had been deployed to the southern Philippines between 2002 and 2014. At its peak, the US had 1,200 troops there.
The Filipino president said Washington had to quit treating Manila like a “dog with a leash.”
Despite Duterte’s clear message, Philip Goldberg, the American envoy to the Southeast Asian country, said Washington was willing to keep its troops to curb militancy in southern parts of the country.
“We’ve helped the Philippines as it has reduced the threat over time,” Goldberg said. “But we are concerned obviously about any new intrusion of ISIS (Daesh) or any other group that wants to take advantage of open space in the south of the Philippines. So we want to continue doing that.”
According to Yahoo News, over 2,000 people have died during the Philippines’ war on drugs, which began in late June, when Duterte took office.