Trump brushes off Philippines terminating defense pact after 21 years
Manila/Washington (dpa) – US President Donald Trump brushed off the decision by the Philippine government to terminate a 21-year defence pact with the United States.
“I really don’t mind that,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “It would save us a lot of money,” he added.
The president did sound somewhat aggrieved however, alleging that US force “literally single-handedly” saved the Philippines from Islamic State.
US Marines indeed helped the Philippine military combat Islamic State fighters in 2017, during pitched battles.
Trump’s comments went against remarks by other officials in the US administration.
Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo rejected US Defence Secretary Mark Esper’s comments that the termination of the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was “a move in the wrong direction.”
Panelo said Esper’s reaction was expected because the agreement, which provides legal cover for the entry of US troops in the Philippines for joint training exercises with Filipino forces, favours the US.
“From our point of view, however, the decision to terminate the VFA is a move in the right direction that should have been done a long time ago,” he said.
“Reliance on another country for our own defences against the enemies of the state will ultimately weaken … our defence mechanisms,” he added. “We must stand on our own and … stop being a parasite… in protecting our independence and sovereignty.”
The termination takes effect 180 days after Tuesday’s notification.
The move followed a series of “legislative and executive actions by the US government that bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system,” Panelo said on Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte first threatened the termination after the US cancelled the tourist visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, a close ally and the former national police chief.
It was unclear why Dela Rosa’s visa was cancelled, but it is believed to relate to his leading role implementing Duterte’s violent crackdown against illegal drugs, which left more than 5,000 suspected drug users and pushers dead.
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