The Philippines says it is withdrawing from a major security agreement with the United States.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. announced Monday in a tweet that he had sent a "notice of termination" of the Visiting Forces Agreement to the deputy chief of mission of U.S. Embassy in Manila, following through on an order made by President Rodrigo Duterte.
@DFAPHL The Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States has received the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. As a diplomatic courtesy there will be no further factual announcements following this self-explanatory development. https://t.co/qQhywEpcea— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) February 11, 2020
The Visiting Forces Agreement, signed in 1998, allows for U.S. forces on Philippine soil to conduct military exercises and humanitarian missions in the region.
Duterte has repeatedly threatened to quite the VFA since taking office in 2016, most recently in January, after Washington canceled the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa. Dela Rosa was the Philippines national police chief when Duterte began his deadly anti-drug campaign that was condemned by the international community and human rights groups for the indiscriminate killings of suspected drug dealers.
The cancellation of dela Rosa's visa is also linked to the continued detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, a major critic of Duterte's anti-drug campaign.
Duterte has been steadily turning away from close ties with Washington in favor of China and Russia.
But Locsin told Philippine lawmakers last week that the VFA has provided vital training and intelligence, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment to Philippine armed forces, and has served as a deterrent to China's aggressive military buildup in the South China Sea.
The termination will take effect in six months as called for under the agreement.