Manila (dpa) – All joint training exercises between the Philippines and the United States will be discontinued when the termination of a 21-year-old defence pact takes effect in August, the Philipine defence secretary said Thursday.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the US can also opt to cancel activities even before the termination of the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) takes effect 180 days after the notice was sent by the Philippine government on Tuesday.
“With the formal serving of the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, this year’s planned military exercises with the Americans shall proceed as scheduled within the 180 days that the VFA remains in force,” he said in a statement.
“However, our American counterparts may opt to discontinue the scheduled exercises before the 180 days are up,” he added. “Once the termination is final, we will cease to have exercises with them.”
The VFA provides legal cover for the entry of US troops in the Philippines for joint training exercises with Filipino forces. The pact can be terminated through a written notice from either party, which would take effect in 180 days.
According to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, the termination followed a series of “legislative and executive actions by the US government that bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system.”
President Rodrigo Duterte first threatened the termination after the US cancelled the tourist visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, a close ally and the former national police chief.
It was unclear why Dela Rosa’s visa was cancelled, but it is believed to relate to his leading role implementing Duterte’s violent crackdown against illegal drugs, which left more than 5,000 suspected drug users and dealers dead.
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