Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has formally terminated the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, delivering on threats to downgrade an alliance important to US interests on Tuesday
It was revealed in a social media post by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr that Manila’s notice of termination was received by the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Manila.
The termination will take effect after 180 days unless both sides agree to keep it.
Locsin signed the notice on the order of Duterte, who has often criticised US security policies, while praising those of China and Russia despite the Philippine military’s close historic ties with its American counterpart.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the decision “unfortunate” and said it would be a move in the wrong direction at a time when Washington and its allies were trying to press China to abide by “international rules of order” in Asia.
Duterte, who has clashed with the US over several issues, decided to pull the plug to enable the Philippines to be more independent in its relations with other countries, his 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 United States,” Panelo said.
The decision, sparked by the revocation of a US visa held by a former police chief who led Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, could complicate US military interests in the Asia-Pacific region as China’s ambitions rise.
It would also limit Philippine access to US training and expertise in tackling armed groups in the southern island of Mindanao, natural disasters and maritime security threats.