World

Philippine leader terminates troop agreement with US

MANILA : The Philippines told the US yesterday it was quitting a pact key to their historical military alliance, triggering a six-month countdown to the deal's termination.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his Cabinet to give notice to quit the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) after voicing anger over Washington cancelling the visa of the official who led his internationally condemned drug war.

The move also follows Mr Duterte's repeated, unfulfilled threats to shrink or even sever the nation's ties with its former colonial master and most important military ally.

The 1998 VFA is the legal framework for the presence of US troops on Philippine soil and is central to hundreds of annual, joint military exercises, which are a major component of their deep military ties.

The pact requires a 180-day notice to quit, which will likely set off a period of negotiation between the two countries.

"This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance," the US embassy in Manila said in a statement.

"We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests."

The VFA is divisive in the Philippines, with leftist and nationalist critics long arguing it guarantees special treatment for US service members accused of crimes.

CHINA

But defenders of the decades-old agreement say ending it could both degrade the Philippines' ability to defend itself and undermine Washington's moves against Beijing's rise, particularly in the disputed South China Sea.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, an advocate of the pact, told lawmakers last week it was fundamental to the US alliance, which had provided millions of dollars in support, equipment and training for the Philippine armed forces.- AFP

WORLD