Trump does not mind if Philippines cuts military pact with US

WASHINGTON, February 13 ------ US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not mind if the Philippines ends a military agreement with the United States. "I don't really mind if they would like to do that, it will save a lot of money," Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about Duterte's move and whether anything could be done to get him to reconsider. "My views are different from others," he added.

Trump has frequently expressed a desire to bring US military forces home from decades-long deployments abroad and has strong-armed some allies into paying more for the right to US defense. Trump said the United States had helped the Philippines defeat Islamic State militants. He said he had "a very good" relationship with Duterte and added: "we'll see what happens." Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced the termination of a two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, a move US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has called "unfortunate." The decision will take effect in 180 days. Trump added that he has a good relationship with Duterte.

Duterte raised the issue terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States last month after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa. In a speech in San Isidro, Leyte, Duterte said he would do away with the VFA if the US does not correct the matter involving Dela Rosa’s visa. His decision garnered mixed reactions from legislators, security analysts and progressive groups

US State Assistant Secretary Clarke Cooper said the VFA provided a framework on joint military exercises and bilateral engagements between the Philippines and the US. "Absent that agreement, we do put at risk those activities that the different defenses, the different services in the Philippines very much value," Cooper said. Security analyst and international relations expert Professor Rommel Banlaoi inferred that the administration's decision to end the VFA could possibly be influenced by a changed outlook about China. "If you focus on the visa of Bato and about China, you're just looking at the surface. There are deeper considerations on why he terminated the deal. One consideration is we want to redefine our relationship not only with the United States but also with other powers," he said.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has signed and delivered the notice of termination of the Philippines' VFA with the United States on Tuesday. Locsin made the confirmation on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, adding that the US government has already received the notice.