Duterte deals blow to US by terminating troop pact

MANILA: 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 US interests.
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 US government to salvage the VFA, neither will he accept any official invitation to visit the US” Panelo said.
The decision, sparked by the revocation of a US visa held by the former police chief who led Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, could complicate US military interests in the Asia-Pacific as China’s ambitions rise.
It would also limit Philippine access to US training and expertise in tackling extremism, natural disasters and maritime security threats.
Panelo said Duterte’s decision was a consequence of US legislative and executive actions that “bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system”.
The US 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 defence pact sets out rules for US soldiers to operate in the Philippines and is one of three governing what Washington has called an “ironclad” relationship, despite Duterte’s tirades about US hypocrisy, ill-treatment and ageing 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. — Reuters