True to his word and to his own government’s independent foreign policy, the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated one more time that he will move for the scrapping of the grossly one-sided Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, in spite of the desire from the Donald Trump administration to save it.
Despite Trump’s efforts, Duterte said he refused to change his position to scrap the agreement stressing that American lawmakers were “rude” for demanding the release of Senator Leila de Lima who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City due to her involvement in illegal drugs.https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1093475
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the termination of a longstanding military pact with the U.S, though the U.S. State Department reiterated that relations between the nations remain strong. The pact sets the terms for U.S. military personnel operating in the Philippines.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo echoed Duterte’s threat in January to end the agreement after Washington canceled a visa for a senator who used to lead his drug war, considered an affront to the president himself who had warned the CIA not to meddle in his administration’s efforts to rid the country of illegal drugs and drug lords.
“It’s about time we rely on ourselves, we will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country,” Panelo told a news briefing, quoting the president.Duterte Spokesman Atty. Sal Panelo
According to pro-US skeptics, such a move could upend the decades-long alliance as Beijing continues its rise as a military power from the contested waters of the South China Sea to nations across Asia. The threat hasn’t been officially confirmed by the government. The U.S. has been seeking to reassure allies in Southeast Asia of its commitment to the region.
Duterte, of course, has proven to be an expert in tactics, and we read this simply as a way of aligning with an Asian neighbor, rather than antagonizing it for the benefit of a long-standing master thousands of miles away.
A State Department official said in an emailed statement on Saturday that the U.S.-Philippine alliance remains a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to promote a free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific region, citing comments by Secretary Michael Pompeo and Pentagon chief Mark Esper on their visits to Manila last year.
The U.S. alliance with the Philippines is its oldest in the region and remains as important as ever, the official said.
Duterte “has made threats in the past to scale down Manila’s security relations with Washington, and he’s never followed through,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at Washington-based Wilson Center. “The reality is that the Philippines may seek China’s economic largess, but there’s no substitute for the U.S. defense umbrella.”
Since becoming president in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly threatened to “break up” the Southeast Asian nation’s alliance with the U.S., while warming ties with China.
Resistance within Duterte’s Administration
The presidential cabinet is populated mostly of pro-US technocrats hell-bent of preserving their own personal ties with the US.
With great hesitance, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin complied with Duterte’s instruction to officially inform the U.S. government that the Southeast Asian nation will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Locsin told a Senate hearing on Thursday that terminating the pact will “negatively impact” defense and economic ties between the two nations.
While, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Saturday that there are no official orders so far to Cabinet officials to notify the U.S. on ending the military agreement.
Pompeo said last year that the mutual defense treaty with the Philippines would apply if its vessels or planes were attacked in the South China Sea.
U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to save his country’s military pact with the Philippines, according to President Duterte. But the Southeast Asian nation leader said he’ll scrap it just the same.
“Trump, and the others are trying to save the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Duterte said in a speech in Manila on Monday night in a mix of English and the local language. “I said, I don’t want it,” according to the official transcript.
The agreement that sets the terms for American soldiers to conduct military exercises in the Philippines hasn’t solved the decades-long communist insurgency, said Duterte.
While there might be some advantages for those who have facilitated the VFA with the US in Congress and in the military hierarchy, a number of disadvantages of having a military alliance with the US need to be discussed, to wit:
- As its name should imply, the Visiting Forces Agreement should only accommodate short-term visits of US personnel, but in reality, it only circumvents the abrogation of the Military Bases Agreement in 1991, which led to the dismantling of the biggest US military base outside of the abroad;
- The US abuses VFA autonomy inside Philippine territory. This agreement gives US forces the right to utilize our territory for its own purposes, including as a launching pad for its “war of terror” operations;
- The joint military exercise known as “Balikatan”, which are projected to improve Philippine military efforts, benefit the US forces more. The US forces that participate in these exercises are based in Japan. However, the Japanese people, especially the residents of Okinawa, oppose the presence of US bases in their country, so much so that they would only allow the US bases to remain in their country if the latter will not test its weapons there. Hence, the need for these Balikatan exercises in the Philippines;
- The US has said that these exercises are to advance the Filipino military in terms of technology and weaponry brought in by the Americans. However, these weapons are brought only during the Balikatan exercises and after the Filipinos have been trained, the Americans will leave with the weapons, defeating the exercises’ purpose. Filipinos thus learn and are trained to utilize military technology they do not even possess. All joint military exercises with the US, therefore, is nothing but a marketing ploy for the military industrial complex.
- In spite of being the US’s “oldest ally” in the region, the Philippines only received a pittance in terms of US military aid, i.e. $175 million in 2015, as compared to Pakistan and Egypt at $14 billion and $ 1.3 billion, respectively.
- Such military aid are mostly used to procure US-made armaments, but procurement costs of US military arms are 5 to 10 times higher than in other countries;
- The supply of arms from the US can also be used to dictate on the internal policies of the government. This happens in all current Philippine government arms purchases of the Duterte administration, where some US senators were demanding that a high ranking government official of the last administration, who was caught receiving monthly contributions from the druglords to fund her senatorial aspiration in 2016, be released from prison. This proves that the US Congress doesn’t mind if the host country in turning into a narco-state for as long as it serves the Deep State’s interest much like what has happened in Latin American countries;
- This prompts the Duterte government to source its military supplies from China and Russia, which until now have yet to issue an invoice for the deliveries of arms, ammunition and various equipment for military mobility, that have helped greatly in the 5-month operation to defeat the ISIS in Marawi City;
- Crimes and misdemeanors, including gang rape, committed by US soldiers in Philippine soil are treated with kid gloves, with the assailants confined only inside the US Embassy, rather in a local jail, where the host government has full control of the administration of justice, which incidentally is what the VFA allows in favor of the US, when any of the Philippine troops are at fault in any US controlled territory.
No less than the AFP Chief himself says that there’s no huge impact from the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei55VLNaoXE
More than anything else, the decision of the president to abrogate the VFA is a strong statement of the desire of the country to craft its own destiny, since its revolution against the 400-year Spanish rule in 1896 was usurped by the US through the Treaty of Paris.
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