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An amphibious assault vehicle carries American and Philippine troops during a joint military exercise. An amphibious assault vehicle carries American and Philippine troops during a joint military exercise in Zambales province, northwest of Manila, the Philippines, April 11, 2019 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Is Duterte Trying to End the U.S.-Philippines Alliance?

Friday, Feb. 21, 2020

Last week, after hinting at it for some time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would terminate a key military pact with the United States. The Visiting Forces Agreement, in place for two decades, allows Washington to keep rotations of American soldiers in the Philippines. As Richard Heydarian has noted, the deal also provides a legal basis for the numerous annual joint military exercises between U.S. and Philippines forces. Tearing it up is the biggest break in bilateral relations at least since Manila forced Washington to give up its Philippine bases in 1991 and 1992. Some analysts, like Heydarian, go further, suggesting it essentially signals the end of the decades-old U.S.-Philippine alliance.

President Donald Trump claimed he didn’t care after the Philippine leader made the break. “I don’t really mind if they would like to do that,” he said after Duterte’s announcement, “it will save a lot of money.” But Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called it “unfortunate.” ...

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