Duterte ends US defence pact; Washington calls it ‘unfortunate’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte formally terminated on Tuesday the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, delivering on threats to downgrade an alliance important to US interests.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said in a social media post 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.

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