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                  Asia Pacific> Asia News> Content
                  Wednesday, February 12, 2020, 19:51
                  US says Duterte's move to scrap defense pact is 'unfortunate’
                  By Bloomberg
                  Wednesday, February 12, 2020, 19:51 By Bloomberg

                  US army personnel stand on top of their Interim armored carrier strykers as thye prepare to leave after participating in the live fire exercises, as part of the annual US-Philippines joint military exercise at Crow Valley, in Capas town, Tarlac province, north of Manila on April 10, 2019. (TED ALJIBE / AFP)

                  The US said the Philippines’ move to terminate a 22-year-old military agreement, which can be ended with 180-days notice, was “unfortunate”.

                  Scrapping the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement -- which sets the terms for joint exercises and engagement of American soldiers in the Philippines -- would be the first concrete step by the Philippines to cut defense ties with the US.

                  Pentagon chief Mark Esper said Wednesday it was “a move in the wrong direction” for the “long-standing relationship” between the two countries and for the Philippines’ strategic location

                  Pentagon chief Mark Esper said Wednesday it was “a move in the wrong direction” for the “long-standing relationship” between the two countries and for the Philippines’ strategic location.

                  In response, a spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that Manila's move to terminate the agreemet "is a move in the right direction that should have been done a long time ago."

                  It’s a shift that Duterte had signaled since his six-year term started in 2016 as he realigned his foreign policy toward China. The Philippines and the US signed a mutual defense treaty in 1951 which binds the nations to defend each other, if attacked.

                  READ MORE: Don’t blame Chinese, Duterte says

                  “Trump, and the others, are trying to save the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Duterte said in a speech in Manila on Monday night referring to the US president. “I said, I don’t want it,” he said according to the official transcript.

                  Win for China

                  Scrapping the military deal will bring the Southeast Asian nation closer to China, as US support for Philippine military will likely be reduced, said Malcolm Cook, senior fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

                  “As with many other decisions made by President Duterte, China appears to be the biggest winner and Philippine external security the biggest loser,” Cook said.

                  The Philippines may find it difficult to access millions of dollars in military aid, and trade relations may also be hurt once the pact is terminated, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said last week. Joint military activities -- including training for thousands of Philippine and American soldiers -- will also be severely curtailed, he added.

                  ALSO READ: Duterte to scrap US military agreement in rebuke of Trump

                  The 74-year-old Duterte revived his threats to end the military pact with the America last month after the US canceled the visa of his former police chief who oversaw his deadly drug war. Duterte said the nation’s military ties with the US didn’t solve the decades-long communist insurgency.

                  (With Xinhua inputs)

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