Rodrigo Duterte gives formal notice on rescinding Philippines-US military agreement

The Filipino president openly disapproves of his country’s military alliance with the US

epa08157555 A handout photo made available by the Presidential Photographers Division (PPD) shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivering a speech at the San Isidro Central School, during the distribution of benefits to former rebels in Leyte province, Philippines, 23 January 2020 (issued 24 January 2020).  EPA/VALERIE ESCALERA / PPD /HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has told his foreign minister to give formal notice to the United States of his termination of a Visiting Forces Agreement between their militaries, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

Mr Duterte, who has openly disapproved of the two countries’ military alliance, made the decision after close ally Ronald dela Rosa, the early architect of the president’s war on drugs, said his US visa had been rescinded.

“It’s about time we rely on ourselves – we will strengthen our own defences and not rely on any other country,” Mr Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, quoted the president as saying at a press briefing.

The Filipino president has long railed against retaining American troops in his nation but some parts of his government have tried to temper Mr Duterte’s calls for US soldiers to leave.

The argument is that the Philippines has gained nothing economically or socially from the US military presence in the decades in which they have been there.

Mr Duterte has tried to nurture a bilateral relationship with Beijing, making a dramatic about-turn away from Washington to court China, a country that promised Manila $24 billion in investment, credit and loan pledges in 2016.

The promise was made in the year that former Philippine president Benigno Aquino won his case against Chinese claims over Filipino territorial waters in the South China Sea at The Hague.

Under what Manila has called its “Build, Build, Build” programme, infrastructure spending grew by 35 per cent in 2018, rising to 5.5 per cent of GDP.

The main source of this sharp rise is China. But many of the promised investments have yet to materialise.

The Visiting Forces Agreement, signed in 1998, accorded legal status to thousands of US troops who spent stints in the country for military exercises and humanitarian help.

This agreement pertains to the treatment of US Armed Forces visiting the Philippines on rotation, not those stationed in the archipelago nation.

The countries share a Mutual Defence Treaty and an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, both of which remain in place.

The Philippines and the United States previously had a Status of Forces Agreement.

This is an agreement that generally establishes the framework under which the US military operates in a foreign country and how domestic laws of the foreign jurisdiction apply towards American forces stationed there.

For decades, US troops have been perceived unfavourably by the local populace of some nations in which Washington has had military agreements.

This has been caused by publicised cases of criminality in countries including the Philippines and Japan.