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U.S. Embassy officials in the Philippines on Wednesday disputed local media claims that U.S. military personnel forced the nighttime closure of a civilian hospital on Jolo island in the southern part of the country.

The media reports prompted the Armed Forces of the Philippines to launch an investigation on Monday.

“U.S. forces did not and would not order anyone in the Philippines regarding hospital hours or any other issue,” U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said during a phone interview Wednesday. “U.S. forces are in the Philippines solely at the invitation of the government of the Philippines to provide assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

Several media reports alleged that U.S. troops forced a hospital in Panamao municipality, on Jolo Island, to close at 6 p.m. in December, and prevented staff from treating patients after sundown, possibly because of alleged threats to U.S. military personnel working nearby.

Members of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Forces-Philippines are assigned to a nearby advanced operating base on the island.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines provided a release to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday that quoted a spokeswoman for the U.S. command.

In that release, JSTOF-P spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Melissa Schuermann stated that the media reports are “all allegations and are not true unless proven otherwise.” Schuermann could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The release also stated that the media reports have had an adverse effect on the joint humanitarian efforts of the AFP and the U.S. forces in the region.

AFP spokesman Maj. Eugenio Barara Jr. said Wednesday that U.S. forces were working near the hospital with Philippine marines at the time of the alleged incident. He was unable to provide additional details until he sees the final investigation report.


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