A group of military personnel in the United States is said to be on a “pilot project” to deploy US troops to the Philippines to defend the country’s borders and help protect American interests, according to reports.
A statement from the Department of Defense’s Military Department said the deployment would be aimed at helping to “assist the Philippine government in countering the threat of illegal drugs”.
The US is already based in the country.
It has a force of more than 4,000 troops in the south-east Pacific, with about 100 military personnel based in Camp Pendleton in California, as well as the Marine Corps’ Camp Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
There are also around 700 US Marines stationed in a base in Mindanao, the Philippines’ southernmost province, with the base in San Fernando Valley, about 75 kilometres north of Manila.
In 2014, the United Nations Security Council voted to increase the US presence in the southern Philippines by about 2,500 troops, including the deployment of an additional 2,000 military personnel to assist the Philippine military.
Last year, a Philippine court convicted a former army officer and a former police officer of crimes including murder and rape over the killing of an elderly man in the town of Cagayan de Oro, south of Manila, in 2013.
The court found the two men had committed “a crime that the Philippine court recognised was committed under the guise of national security”.
In 2017, the US Senate approved a bill to increase military aid to the country, but it was defeated in the House.
The Philippine government has said the US is “deeply concerned” about the possible deployment.
“We are concerned that this would be a new escalation of violence and intimidation in the wake of the Duterte administration’s declaration of martial law,” the government said in a statement.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, has said it is too soon to discuss the matter further.