Designated as a major Non-NATO Ally by the US, Philippines share a historical and cultural background with the country, with a shared commitment to abide by the security ties between both the nations. A Mutual Defense Treaty was signed between Philippines and the US in 1951 with a pledge that both the countries would support each other if attacked by an external party.
However, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, after taking over the office in 2016, has called to end the country’s dependency on the US. Duterte, frequently described as a populist and a nationalist, is the oldest person to assume the Philippines presidency, at the age of 71. He gained much of his support after he vocalized for the extrajudicial killing of drug users and other criminals, during his presidential campaigning.
Post his winning, Rodrigo Duterte, declared his intention to pursue an independent foreign policy, seeking to distance Philippines from the US and the European Union, while pursuing closer ties with China and Russia. He even requested the US troops, who were a part of the Operation Enduring Freedom in Mindanao, to leave the Philippines in 2016, with multiple statements afterwards that indicated his will to maintain ties with the US.
Over the time, the Philippines president has criticized the US government for interfering in its internal policies. Rodrigo Duterte even accused the US of refusing to sell armaments to his country. On many occasions, Duterte emphasized on a realignment of the Philippines to move closer to China, severing its relations with the US.
Under President Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership, Philippines, on Tuesday, announced to end a major security pact with the US. Through his tweet, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin notified the US Embassy in Manila about the plan to pull out Philippines from the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The accord allows American forces, along with the US military ships and aircraft, to rotate through Philippine military bases for roughly 300 joint exercises annually with Filipino troops.
The agreement, if not negotiated from both the countries, will be terminated in 180 days. The US Embassy in Manila acknowledged the receipt of Manila’s notice and said Washington “will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests.”
“This is a serious step with significant implications for the U.S.-Philippines alliance. Our two countries enjoy a warm relationship, deeply rooted in history. We remain committed to the friendship between our two peoples,” the embassy added.
The announcement came a day after Rodrigo Duterte’s speech on Monday, where he accused the US of meddling in Philippine affairs, including the fact that the country wanted the release of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima, who was accused of involvement in illegal drugs.
The critics believe that Philippines’ decision to draw down its security alliance with the US would affect its economic and security relations with the country as the latter has provided more than $550 million in security assistance to it from 2016 to 2019. Moreover, the intelligence and training aids provided to Philippines to counter terrorism and cyberattacks will eventually be disrupted, with the scrapping of the security pact. The question here is whether the country is really ready to face the consequences by walking away from the US under the leadership of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte?