MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday that Philippine forces can fight insurgents and Muslim extremists without the help of the US military, in defense of his recent decision to end a US security pact.
Duterte also said in a speech that he would stick to a decision taken early in his presidency, as he was enraged by President Barack Obama’s criticisms of his deadly drug crackdown, that he would not stand by. will not make it to the United States.
The fiery Filipino leader has often criticized US security policy while praising China and Russia since coming to power in mid-2016 for a six-year term.
U.S. President Donald Trump has invited Duterte to join a meeting he will host for leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Las Vegas next month. Duterte has a better relationship with Trump than with Obama, but his remarks on Wednesday support an earlier statement by his spokesperson that he would not be attending the Las Vegas meeting.
“Do we need America to survive as a nation? Duterte asked. “Do we need… the might and the might of the United States military to fight our rebellion here and the terrorists in the south and control drugs?” ”
“The army and the police said, ‘Sir, we can do it,’ he said.
“If we can’t do it, we don’t have to be a republic,” Duterte said. “You might as well choose. We can be an American territory or we can be a province of China. ”
The Philippine government informed the United States two weeks ago of its intention to end the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows U.S. forces to train in large numbers in the Philippines, under the most threat. serious under Duterte for the 69-year treaty alliance of the two nations.
Termination takes effect after 180 days unless both parties agree to keep the VFA. The waiting period allows the allies to renegotiate the contentious terms of the 1998 agreement.
The agreement allows the entry and temporary stay of US forces as well as US military ships and planes for joint training with Filipino troops. The maneuvers include annual exercises that Philippine security officials have attributed to helping repel Communist insurgents across the country and Islamic State-aligned Muslim militants in the southern Philippines.
The VFA clarifies which country has jurisdiction over American soldiers who are accused of crimes in the Philippines, a sensitive issue in the former American colony.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called the Duterte administration’s decision “unfortunate.” Trump, however, reacted with disdain, saying, “If they want to do this, that’s fine. We will save a lot of money.
Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr., who signed the termination notice under Duterte’s leadership, proposed a review of the agreement to resolve the contentious issues instead of repealing it.
Duterte threatened to terminate the deal after Washington allegedly canceled the U.S. visa of a staunch ally Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who was linked to human rights violations when he applied the president’s deadly drug crackdown as as head of the national police in 2016.
Duterte gave the United States a month to reinstate dela Rosa’s visa, but American officials have not publicly responded to her request.
Thousands of suspects, mostly poor, have been killed as part of Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, alarming the United States and other Western governments and human rights groups.
Duterte on Wednesday rejected what he said was the portrayal by some US officials of his administration as persecuting an opposition senator detained and unable to investigate the extrajudicial killings.
“We were portrayed as a republic incapable of administering simple justice,” said Duterte.