Philippines scraps US “Visiting Forces Agreement”

[TamilNet, Thursday, 13 February 2020, 22:15 GMT]
The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has terminated a critical military pact his country was having with the US since 1998, on Tuesday. The scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was a move “in the wrong direction,” responded US Defence Secretary Mark Esper. In the meantime, US Indo-Pacific commander Adm. Philip S. Davidson on Thursday said he was expecting the US State Department to negotiate with the Philippines to sustain the VFA. China and the Philippines have been at loggerheads over the former’s claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea since 2012. However, President Duterte, elected in 2016, was favouring a “multi-polar” world order as being ‘officially’ envisaged by SL President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Duterte has plans to launch a resident mission in Colombo in 2020.

Duterte, naming his approach as “independent foreign policy,” has stepped up his engagement with Russia.

The Philippines’ President has also emerged as a controversial war hero as his regime enacted thousands of extrajudicial killings to ‘discipline’ the society in a proclaimed “war on drugs”.

[Video courtesy: ANC 24/7]

“Without the VFA, US interference with the South China Sea will be constrained,” observed the Chinese Communist Party’s English paper, the Global Times.

“The scrapping of the deal will also impair the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy. The key countries involved are Japan, India, and Australia, and the nixing of the agreement in the Philippines will not fundamentally strike a blow to the strategy, yet, the end of the VFA will impact US strategy in the South China Sea, and thus complicate its Indo-Pacific Strategy,” the Chinese paper commented.

[Video courtesy: PhilStar News]

On Thursday, USINDOPACOM Commander Adm. Davidson was addressing the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia.

“[O]ur ability to help the Philippines and their counter-violent extremist fight in the south, our ability to train and operate within the Philippines and with Filipino armed forces would be challenged without that Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said.

However, US President Donald Trump has come with a controversial remark, as usual. “You know, my views are different than other people. I view it as, ‘Thank you very much. We save a lot of money,” Mr Trump said.

“And my relationship, as you know, is a very good one with their leader. And we’ll see what happens. They’ll have to tell me that,” Trump added.

South China Sea
[Illustration courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]

There was a military standoff between the navies of the Philippines and the Republic of China in 2012-2013 near the reef of Scarborough Shoal, located 200 km from the Philippine mainland.

Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, took the dispute over the contested reef, which is known for its oil resources and strategic location, to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2013.

The tribunal ruled in favour of the Philippines in 2016.

Duterte, who was elected to power in 2016, initially welcomed the ruling and warned China against any aggression.

However, tensions started to soar between the Philippines and the US after the latter denied a visa for Philippines’ former national police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, who led Duterte’s “war on drugs” with massive killings and human rights violations.

President Duterte has also withdrawn his country from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court after the court decided to investigate the thousands of extrajudicial killings that occurred during his administration’s drug war.

External Links:
Stars & Stripes: US admiral hopes Philippine security pact can still be saved
Global Times: Manila’s termination of military pact will upset US meddling in South China Sea
Xinhua: Philippines to cease joint exercises with U.S. after military pact termination: defense chief
The Economist: A treaty for a visa: The Philippines tears up a defence pact with America
ABS-CBN News: US defense chief says PH decision to scrap VFA a 'move in the wrong direction'
PhilStar Global: 'Thank you, next': Trump fine with ending defense pact with Philippines



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