Duterte reaffirms bid to end defence pact with US: spokesman

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has told his foreign affairs chief to give official notice to the United States of his termination of a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between their militaries, his spokesman said on Tuesday, reiterating an earlier threat.

Duterte, who has openly disapproved of the two countries’ military alliance, made the decision after a close ally said his visa for the US had been rescinded, in an issue related to the president’s deadly war on drugs.

“It’s about time we rely on ourselves, we will strengthen our own defences and not rely on any other country,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular briefing, quoting the president.

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, accorded legal status to thousands of US troops who were rotated into the country for military exercises and to provide humanitarian assistance.

In the last few days, Duterte’s cabinet members have been going back-and-forth on the president’s policy, with his spokesman saying on Friday that an order to end the deal had been issued, while his foreign and defence secretaries said there has been no final decision yet on the matter.

But on Saturday, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called the announcement “fake news”.

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