US President Donald Trump dismissed concerns about the Philippines cancelling a major military accord, saying the decision would save Americans money.
During a meeting Ecuador President Lenin Moreno at the White House, President Trump said, “I really don’t mind, if they would like to do that, that’s fine”.
Trump further added, “We’ll save a lot of money. You know my views are different from other people. I view it as, ‘Thank you very much, we’ll save a lot of money”
The 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) created a legal framework for the presence of US troops in the Philippines and for organizing joint military exercises.
Famously outspoken Duterte has threatened since his 2016 election to put an end to the Filipino-American alliance, with an eye toward cultivating relationships with Russia or China instead.
The US president’s remarks represented a sharp departure from the position of the Pentagon, with Esper telling media en route to a NATO conference in Brussels on Tuesday that “it’s a move in the wrong direction, again for the long-standing relationship we’ve had with the Philippines, for their strategic location, for the ties between our peoples and our countries.”
The Philippines will continue joint military exercises with American soldiers as scheduled in the defence agreement Duterte wants to be terminated while it remains in force, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement Thursday.
A Mutual Defense Treaty was signed in 1951, five years after the US granted the Philippines independence, and it has been at the centre of defence relations ever since.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2014, allows for a greater US presence at Philippine military bases and the construction of new facilities there.