This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress is the 10th quarterly report on Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines (OPE-P), the overseas contingency operation to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ fight against ISIS-East Asia (ISIS-EA) and other terrorist organizations. This report summarizes significant events related to this operation and describes ongoing and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work, and covers the period from January 1, 2020, to March 31, 2020.
The Philippine government announced that it would terminate its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States effective August 9, 2020, absent any action in the interim to reverse this decision. The VFA has provided for expedited, visa-free entry into the Philippines for U.S. military personnel and equipment since 1999. The VFA also governs criminal jurisdictions for U.S. service members accused of criminal acts in country. The full implications of VFA termination are not yet known, but it will likely present new challenges for U.S. counterterrorism operations.
The coronavirus disease–2019 (COVID-19) pandemic limited the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) counterterrorism activities toward the end of the quarter. The Philippine government entered into a ceasefire with communist rebel militants as AFP resources were diverted to pandemic response efforts. The U.S. Embassy in Manila questioned the AFP’s capacity to conduct sustained counterterrorism operations simultaneously while confronting the pandemic.
The U.S. Government committed $4 million to COVID-19 response efforts in the Philippines this quarter. These efforts include assisting the Philippine government with infectious disease prevention and response strategies, COVID-19 testing, and the delivery and management of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the AFP engaged in minor clashes with ISIS-EA in the southern Philippines. A week-long AFP offensive resulted in the deaths of at least 14 ISIS-EA militants and 4 AFP soldiers. In a follow-on assault against a nearby ISIS-EA camp, AFP troops seized firearms, ammunition, and improvised explosive devices. U.S. special operations forces provided casualty evacuation assistance to the AFP this quarter, rescuing five AFP soldiers who were wounded while conducting operations on Mindanao.
This quarter, the Government Accountability Office completed one report on oversight of DoD acquisition procedures related to OPE-P. Nine Lead IG and partner agency oversight projects related to OPE-P were ongoing, and six were planned, as of March 31, 2020.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the Department of Defense, Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development Offices of Inspector General—to work together to develop and carry out joint, comprehensive, and strategic oversight. Each Inspector General retains statutory independence, but together they apply their extensive regional experience and in-depth institutional knowledge to conduct whole-of-government oversight of this overseas contingency operation.