Philippines Notifies US of Intent to End Major Security Pact; Calls For Increased Partnership With Regional Navies

February 11: The Philippines notified the United States on Tuesday it would end a major security pact allowing American forces to train in the country, in the most serious threat under President Rodrigo Duterte to their 69-year treaty alliance. The termination would take effect after 180 days unless both sides agree to keep it.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr signed the notice on the order of Duterte, who has often criticized U.S. security policies while praising those of China and Russia despite the Philippine military’s close historic ties with its American counterpart.

“This is a serious step with significant implications for the U.S.-Philippines alliance,” the embassy said in a statement. “Our two countries enjoy a warm relationship, deeply rooted in history. We remain committed to the friendship between our two peoples.”

In a Senate hearing last week, Locsin warned that abrogating the 1998 security accord with Washington would undermine Philippine security and foster aggression in the disputed South China Sea. U.S. military presence in the strategic waterway has been seen as a crucial counterweight to China, which claims virtually the entire sea.

Locsin proposed a review of the agreement to fix contentious issues, including criminal jurisdiction over erring American troops, instead of abrogating it. Philippine defense and military officials did not immediately issue any reaction to the government move.

Duterte threatened to terminate the security agreement after Washington reportedly canceled the U.S. visa of a loyal ally, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who was linked to human rights violations when he first enforced the president’s deadly anti-drug crackdown as the national police chief in 2016. Duterte gave the U.S. a month to restore dela Rosa’s visa, but U.S. officials have not publicly reacted to the Philippine leader’s demand.

A Filipino senator and former national police chief, Panfilo Lacson, said terminating the treaty would reduce the two allies’ 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty “to a mere paper treaty as far as the U.S. is concerned.”

U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary R. Clarke Cooper said in a telephone news conference Monday that abrogating the pact would put at risk more than 300 military engagements, including joint trainings, this year between the allies.

Terminating the VFA would affect the joint exercises and other activities with U.S. forces “which the Philippine military and law enforcement agencies need to enhance their capabilities in countering threats to national security,” Locsin said.

Source: Associated Press via NBC News

Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy on Tuesday called on regional navies to work together amid evolving maritime security challenges to ensure peace and stability.

“Western Pacific navies must seek the promotion of a comprehensive approach to maritime security through exploring more functional ways of cooperation while remaining committed to rules-based and sustainable management of the seas,” Navy chief Rear Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo told navy representatives from 23 countries at the opening ceremony of the preliminary workshop.

Countries that participated in the workshop include US, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Cambodia, and China.

Source: Global Nation

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