Philippines’ Duterte tells US he is scrapping troop agreement
President disapproves of alliance and made decision after ally’s visa was rescinded
Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, has given formal notice to the US of his decision to scrap a bilateral agreement covering visiting American troops, following through on repeated threats to downgrade the defence alliance.
The visiting forces agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, accords legal status to thousands of American troops rotated in the country for humanitarian assistance and military exercises, dozens of which take place annually.
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Rodrigo removal of US was just after US commits to aiding Philippines in South China Sea
The US secretary of state has committed Washington to aiding the Philippines in the event of an “armed attack” on its vessels or aircraft in the disputed South China Sea, in what some see as a warning shot to China.
Speaking in Manila after meeting the president, Rodrigo Duterte, Mike Pompeo told the Philippines: “We have your back” and invoked the two countries’ mutual defence treaty.
“Any armed attack on any Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defence obligations under article IV of our mutual defence treaty,” Pompeo said.
The South China Sea is one of the most contested patches of water in the world, with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam with overlapping claims in the region.
Duterte, who has made no secret of his grudge with the US and his disdain for his country’s close military relationship, believed it was time to be more militarily independent, his spokesman said.
“It’s about time we rely on ourselves. We will strengthen our own defences and not rely on any other country,” Salvador Panelo told a regular briefing, quoting Duterte.
Defence ties between the Philippines and its former colonial ruler go back to the early 1950s and are governed by a mutual defence treaty (MTD), which remains intact, along with an enhanced defence cooperation agreement made under the Obama administration.
Duterte made the decision after the top commander of his war on drugs, the former police chief Ronald dela Rosa, said his US visa had been rescinded over an issue related to the detention of a senator and critic of Duterte.
It is the first time Duterte has scrapped an agreement with the US, having throughout his more than three years in office denounced Washington for hypocrisy and for treating the Philippines “like a dog on a leash”.
Despite reassurances from his generals, Duterte has long accused US forces of conducting clandestine activities. In a speech on Monday he said US nuclear weapons were being stored in his country.
He has argued that the presence of US forces makes the Philippines a potential target for aggression.
Duterte’s move follows a Senate hearing last week during which his defence and foreign ministers spoke in favour of the VFA, both noting its overall benefits.
He said even the US president wanted him to change his mind. “Trump, and others are trying to save the [VFA]. I said I don’t want,” he said.
His foreign secretary, Teodoro Locsin, confirmed on Twitter that the US embassy in Manila had received notice. The termination will take effect after 180 days.
Duterte favours warmer ties with China and Russia than the US and has praised those countries and increased their military contributions and donations, which are dwarfed by the $1.3bn (£1bn) spent provided by the US since 1998.
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“I am Chinese”: Rodrigo Duterte explained the Philippines’ shift in the South China Sea to China
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, Beijing’s new best friend, has swiftly pivoted away from the US and into China’s arms, and arrived in Beijing today for a high-profile visit where he’s promised to improve economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Since he was elected little over 100 days ago, Duterte has trashed the US and played up links between the Philippines and China, even repeatedly bringing up the fact that he has a Chinese grandfather who came from Xiamen.
In a 20-minute interview broadcast by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Oct. 18 (though it was recorded in Manila on Oct. 13), Duterte and host Shui Junyi discussed a range of issues, but the interview was dominated by the two countries’ territorial dispute in the South China Sea and Manila’s about-face over the dispute.
Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, challenged Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea in an international tribunal and won, with a July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague invalidating China’s sweeping maritime claims. It was a huge victory for the Philippines and supported by Western allies like the US and Australia, but Duterte seems uninterested in using the result to rally international pressure against China—despite once vowing to ride into the South China Sea on a jet ski while waving the Philippine flag.
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