Trump shrugs off PH decision to end military pact: We save money
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US President Donald Trump on Thursday (Philippine time) said he is "fine" with the Philippines' decision to terminate the two-decades military agreement with the United States.
"I never minded that very much, to be honest. If they would like to do that, that’s fine. We’ll save a lot of money. You know, my views are different than other people. I view it as, 'Thank you very much. We save a lot of money,'" he said in an interview at the Oval Office in Washington, D.C.
With the pact, the Philippines is receiving military assistance and financial grants from US.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier claimed his counterpart was "trying to save" the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Trump's response is also a stark contrast to the view of his Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said ending the military agreement is "unfortunate" and "a move in the wrong direction" in terms of dealing with China's aggression.
The VFA is a 1998 agreement between Manila and Washington on the protocol for American military personnel in the country. Among its controversial provisions are the lax visa and passport policies for American troops and the authority granted to the US government to retain jurisdiction over its military personnel if ever they commit crimes locally.
Trump says 'it's fine' that Philippines plans to end military pact
Asked if it was possible to change Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's mind about ending the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, President Trump said "never minded that very much."
Trump ‘fine’ with end of Philippines military pact
WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump dismissed concerns Wednesday about the Philippines canceling a major military accord, saying the decision would save Americans money.
The 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) created a legal framework for the presence of US troops in the Philippines and for organizing joint military exercises.
Manila announced its decision Tuesday — a move the US embassy in the Philippines called a “serious step” — touching off a six-month countdown to the end of the deal.
“If they would like to do that, that’s fine, we’ll save a lot of money,” Trump told reporters at the White House, touting his “very good relationship” with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
Famously outspoken Duterte has threatened since his 2016 election to put an end to the Filipino-American alliance, with an eye toward cultivating relationships with Russia or China instead.
He specifically mentioned a desire to do away with the VFA again in January, after the US cancelled the travel visa of senator and former national police chief Ronald Dela Rosa.
The VFA is divisive in the Philippines, with leftist and nationalist critics arguing it guarantees preferential treatment for US service members accused of crimes.
Its defenders say ending the agreement would compromise the southeast Asian nation’s ability to defend itself and undermine the US goal of containing Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea.
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