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Philippine Prez ends decades old defence pact with US

Philippine Prez ends decades old defence pact with US

Manila, Feb 12 (UNI) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has formally terminated the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, thus downgrading an alliance which is very important to US interests.

Manila's top diplomat said on Tuesday that the termination notice has been delivered to the US Embassy, which was received by the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Manila. It will take effect after 180 days, unless both the sides agrees to continue with it.

Al Zajeera has reported that Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr signed the notice on the orders of Duterte, who has consistently been critical of US security policies. While on the other hand he has often praised China and Russia for their military strategies.

Reacting to the Philippine government's move, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the decision was "unfortunate" and said it would be a move in the wrong direction especially at a time when Washington and its allies were trying to press China to abide by "international rules of order" in Asia.

According to Qatar media reports, Duterte decided to end the alliance with the US in order to pursue a more independent foreign policy and develop relations with other countries more freely.

"The president will not entertain any initiative coming from the US government to salvage the VFA, neither will he accept any official invitation to visit the United States," a Philippine official said.

Experts believe that this decision is likely to complicate US military interests in the Asia-Pacific region while also limiting Philippines' access to US training and expertise in tackling armed groups in the southern island of Mindanao, natural disaster and maritime security threats.

It could also lead to the possibility of the Philippines going increasingly under the Chinese umbrella as China expands its influence in the region militarily.

American officials expressed hope that Phillipines would reconsider and reverse the decision.

UNI XC-ACL RHK1514

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