RT NEWS – 7 Feb, 2020 23:29
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is “terminating” the Visiting Forces Agreement, which provides legal immunity to US military drills, in retaliation for the US canceling the visa of a political ally and fellow drug-warrior.
“The president said he is terminating the VFA,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told ABS-CBN News on Friday. “I asked for clarification and he said he is not changing his decision.” The agreement provides legal immunity for US soldiers conducting military exercises in the Philippines.
Enraged by the US decision to cancel the visa of former police chief and Senator Roland dela Rosa last month, Duterte had given Washington a month to fix its ‘mistake,’ refusing to back down even as other members of his government urged him to reconsider.
“I’m warning you… if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate the… Visiting Forces Agreement,” Duterte said last month, daring the US to call his bluff.
Washington had reportedly canceled dela Rosa’s visa over his record of extrajudicial killings while serving as Duterte’s first police chief. In that role, he was responsible for carrying out the president’s heavy-handed anti-drug campaign – much closer to a literal “war on drugs” than the US policy by that name – which has left thousands dead and sparked international outcry.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin attempted to argue against cutting off the VFA on Thursday, insisting that the $550 million-plus in security aid received from the US since 2016 – along with intelligence, training, and the ability to deter Chinese “aggression” – outweighed any reasons the president might have to scrap the agreement. A “chilling effect on our economic relations” could result if the Philippines starts backing out of its alliance with the US, Locsin suggested.
He also warned that the US might seek to curtail other military agreements between the two countries, which currently include an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and a Mutual Defense Treaty. Trashing the VFA would affect over 300 joint training operations and other drills conducted with the US, which Locsin insisted were vital to Philippine law enforcement and military being able to counter “threats to national security.”
The hypocrisy inherent in drone-happy Washington once again criticizing Duterte’s government for extrajudicial killings – as the State Department did in a 2018 Report on Human Rights Practices – could have pushed Duterte to make the move against his advisors’ counsel. He reacted in a similarly intractable manner when threatened with a ban on entry into the US for Philippine senators involved in the detention of an opposition lawmaker opposed to his drug war.
Duterte has also expressed interest in moving away from dependence on the US toward alliance with rising superpowers, accusing Washington of “living off the fat of our land.”
Source : RT News