Philippines’ Duterte Terminates US Troops Agreement
Washington's virtue signaling backfires
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to issue a notice to the US that the Philippines is terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement.
In a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte told Medialdea to in turn tell Locsin to send the notice to the US.
Earlier in the briefing, Panelo said that the notice was sent on Tuesday.
“The president directed the Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to tell Secretary Teddyboy Locsin of the Foreign Affairs to send a notice of termination to the US government last night and the executive secretary sent the message to Secretary Teddyboy Locsin and the latter signed the notice of termination and sent it to the US government today,” Panelo said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Brigido Dulay has confirmed that Locsin has signed the notice of termination.
The formal notice is a requirement for ending the military agreement, which spells out jurisdictional and other issues related to American troops in Philippine territory and vice versa.
Under the VFA, the agreement is in force for 180 days after the receipt of the notice of termination.
The termination of the VFA was prompted by the cancellation of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa’s US visa, although the Palace has said that the decision to end the agreement was caused by many factors, including what the government says is US meddling in domestic matters.
The revocation of Dela Rosa’s visa is believed to be over his role, when he was Philippine National Police chief, in the government’s “war on drugs”, and the continued detention of Sen. Leila De Lima, a vocal government critic who is facing drug charges that she denies and says were politically-motivated.
Duterte had given the US a month to “correct” the revocation of the visa.
Ties with US to remain ‘warm’
Panelo said that ties with the US, the countty’s longtime ally and former colonizer, “remains warm, hopefully it could be warmer.”
He added, though, that Duterte believes that it is time for the Philippines to “rely on our own resources” and ro “strengthen our own capability relative to the defense of our land.”
He said that the Philippines “will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on anybody.”
At a hearing at the Senate last week to review the Philippines’ military agreements with the US, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the VFA was “born out of a mutual need” of both countries but that the Philippines should work towards being self-sufficient.
“Now, whether we need the VFA indefinitely, I think we do not need the VFA indefinitely. So we should use the interim (meantime) to build up our capabilities,” he said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been buying more military equipment in recent years, including FA-50 light interim fighter trainers and ships.
It has also received weapons and equipment from non-traditional allies like Russia and China.
US State Department: VFA termination would affect military engagements
In a phone briefing on Monday, a transcript of which was provided by the US Embassy, US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Clarke Cooper said that terminating the VFA would affect hundreds of “engagements and exercises” between the Philippine and American militaries.
“[T]he United States has about 300 engagements and exercises that we conduct bilaterally with the Philippines,” he said.
“What’s at risk without a VFA? Well, without a VFA, it puts at risk things like these engagements, like these exercises,” he said, adding that there is “a recognized, broad value of not only maintaining our Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that will beget further procurements and interoperability between the U.S.-Philippine alliance, but the very practical application of a Visiting Forces Agreement that enables these activities like port calls, like engagements, like exercises.”
Source: The Philippine Star
Philippines Duterte deals blow to U.S. by terminating troop pact
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday terminated a two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States (VFA) delivering on threats to downgrade an alliance crucial to U.S. interests.
The mercurial Duterte, who has clashed with the former colonial ruler over several issues, has decided to pull the plug on the two-decade troop rotation pact to enable the Philippines to be more independent with its relations with other countries, spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“The president will not entertain any initiative coming from the U.S. government to salvage the VFA, neither will he accept any official invitation to visit the United States,” Panelo said in a statement.
The decision, sparked by the revocation of a U.S. visa held by the former police chief who led Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, could complicate U.S. military interests in the Asia-Pacific as China’s ambitions rise.
It would also limit Philippine access to U.S. training and expertise in tackling Islamist extremism, natural disasters and maritime security threats.
Panelo said Duterte’s decision was a consequence of U.S. legislative and executive actions that “bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system”.
The U.S. embassy in Manila called it “a serious step with significant implications”.
“We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests,” it said in a statement.
The defense pact sets out rules for U.S. soldiers to operate in the Philippines and is one of three governing what Washington has called an “ironclad” relationship, despite Duterte’s tirades about U.S. hypocrisy, ill-treatment and aging weapons.
Duterte says the United States uses the pacts to conduct clandestine activities like spying and nuclear weapons stockpiling, which he says risk making the Philippines a target for Chinese aggression.
‘WE MUST HAVE A SAY’
Some senators sought to block Duterte’s move soon after news of it broke, arguing that without Senate approval he had no right to unilaterally scrap international pacts it had ratified.
“We must have a say on this important matter,” Senator Richard Gordon told the house.
Some lawmakers are concerned that without the VFA, two other pacts would be irrelevant, namely the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement made under the Obama administration, and a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
Those cover dozens of annual training exercises and broaden access of U.S. air, navy and army forces and equipment to the Philippines, as well as bind the two countries to defend each other from external aggression.
Supporters of the agreements argue they have deterred Chinese militarization in the South China Sea and $1.3 billion of U.S. defense assistance since 1998 has been vital in boosting the capabilities of under-resourced Philippine forces.
Philippine nationalists, however, say the United States did nothing to stop China building islands in the South China Sea equipped with missiles, and say the VFA is lopsidedly favorable to Americans, including the granting of immunity from prosecution for U.S. servicemen.
Duterte, who favors closer ties with China and Russia, pressed ahead with the termination despite a Senate hearing on the VFA last week during which his senior generals and defense and foreign ministers spoke in favor of it.
Ending the VFA could be a blow to Washington’s interests in maintaining a troop presence in the Asia-Pacific, amid friction over the presence of U.S. personnel in Japan and South Korea and regional security concerns about China and North Korea.