The Philippines has indicated that it intends to end a major security pact with the United States that allows American forces to train in the country. The 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) allows American forces, military ships, and aircraft to perform roughly 300 joint exercises annually with Filipino troops at Philippine military bases. It also exempts U.S. military personnel from passport and visa regulations for joint exercises and training in the Philippines.
The country says that notification has already been sent to U.S. authorities. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin announced on Twitter that he notified the U.S. Embassy in Manila of the action. The U.S. Embassy has acknowledged receipt of the Philippines’ notice. It was not clear when the termination notice was officially issued. The agreement will be terminated in 180 days unless both sides negotiate an extension.
There has been a 69-year alliance between the two nations, beginning with the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. The U.S. provided more than $550 million in security assistance to the Philippines from 2016 to 2019, along with intelligence, training, and aid to fight against terrorism, cyberattacks, human trafficking, and illegal narcotics. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the move to terminate the agreement “unfortunate.”
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to pull out of the agreement after a key ally’s U.S. visa was terminated. Duterte gave Washington a month to restore Sen. Ronald dela Rosa’s visa or the security agreement would be terminated. Duterte also threated to ban some U.S. senators from entering the Philippines and barred Cabinet officials from traveling to the U.S.
The visa of dela Rosa was reportedly canceled over alleged human rights violations committed as national police chief. Accusations that dela Rosa was part of the Philippines’ deadly anti-drug crackdown, which reportedly killed thousands of mostly poor Filipinos, was the catalyst for the cancellation. Duterte’s brutal war on drugs has been widely condemned by international human rights watchdogs.