Philippines notifies US of intent to end major security pact

FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2020, file photo, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. gestures during a senate hearing in Manila, Philippines. The Philippines on Tuesday notified the United States of its intent to terminate a major security pact allowing American forces to train in the country in the most serious threat to the countries treaty alliance under President Rodrigo Duterte. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MANILA – 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.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that Manila’s notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement was received by the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. The termination would take effect after 180 days unless both sides agree to keep it.

Locsin 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.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila acknowledged 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,” 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.