Duterte to scrap US military agreement in rebuke of Trump
MANILA: The Philippines has notified the US that it’s terminating a 22-year-old military agreement, which can be ended with 180-days notice, just hours after President Rodrigo Duterte said President Donald Trump was trying to save the deal.
The notice to terminate the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement – which sets the terms for joint exercises and engagement of American soldiers in the Philippines – has been transmitted to the US, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday.
Scrapping the agreement would be the first concrete step by the Philippines to cut defence ties with the US, a move that Duterte had signalled since his six-year term started in 2016 and as he realigned his foreign policy toward China.
The Philippines and the US signed in 1951 a mutual defence treaty which binds the nations to defend each other if attacked.
“Trump, and the others, are trying to save the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Duterte said in a speech in Manila on Monday night. “I said, I don’t want it,” according to the official transcript.
The Philippines’ leader has previously questioned whether the US would defend the Philippines if China seizes disputed shoals and reefs in the South China Sea – scepticism that has persisted in the Southeast Asian nation for decades.
Beijing has built several artificial structures in the Spratly Islands where Manila also has claims. Philippine fishermen and vessels resupplying Philippine-occupied features in the waters have also been harassed by Chinese ships.
Duterte hasn’t spoken to Trump about the military agreement and the president’s information “most likely” came from the US embassy, Panelo said.
The 74-year-old Duterte revived his threats to end the military pact with the America last month after the US cancelled the visa of his former police chief who oversaw his deadly drug war.
Duterte said the nation’s military ties with the US didn’t solve the decades-long communist insurgency.