Filipino leaders have informed the United States the country is putting joint patrols of the South China Sea on hold and that just over 100 American service members operating in the southern part of the country will “be asked to leave” as soon as the Philippines bolsters its own intelligence-gathering capabilities, reported the Associated Press. The announcement by Filipino Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana comes after President Rodrigo Duterte announced his intentions to stop the 28 annual military exercises conducted with the United States. The Air Force deployed two C-130s and about 120 airmen from Yokota AB, Japan, to Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base there in late September. It is the third air contingent to the Philippines since Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the initiative in April in response to China’s military buildup in the contested waters of the South China Sea. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who visited the country in August, told reporters last month the US and the Philippines had signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and that the Philippines were building up its bases, which could be used for future US rotational forces. “We will continue to honor our alliance commitments, and we expect the Philippines to do the same. We will continue to work closely with the government of the Philippines to address any concerns they may have,” USAF spokesman Ed Gulick told Air Force Magazine. “Our relationship with the Philippines is broad and our alliance is one of our most enduring relationships in the Asia Pacific region. It has been a cornerstone of stability for over 70 years.”
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.