Duterte May End Military Treaty with U.S.

U.S.-Philippines joint exercises (USN file image)

By MarEx 2016-12-19 20:51:13

On Saturday, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte threatened to abrogate the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a treaty that enables the American armed forces to operate on Philippine territory.  

"Bye-bye America, and work on the protocols that would eventually move you out from the Philippines," he said. "Prepare to leave the Philippines. Prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement [VFA]."

Since 1999, the Philippines has allowed the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army a measure of access. Among other provisions, the VFA gives the U.S. military the right to retain custody of servicemembers accused of crimes; lifts passport and visa requirements for military personnel; exempts military goods from taxation; and allows U.S. vessels and aircraft the freedom of unrestricted movement within the country. 

A supplementary agreement approved in March gives U.S. forces access to five bases: Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Airport and Benito Ebuen Air Base. Subic Bay and Clark Air Base, formerly the two largest overseas American military installations, were notably absent from the final agreed list, though U.S. Navy vessels have recently called at Subic Bay during military exercises.

In threatening to cancel the VFA, Duterte was reacting to a statement by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. aid agency, which announced last week that it was deferring a vote on aid to the Philippines over concerns about the "rule of law and civil liberties." Duterte's administration has drawn vocal criticism from western governments and from human rights organizations over a violent campaign against drug dealers; Duterte forcefully objects to what he perceives as external interference in the Philippines' affairs, and has suggested he will strengthen ties with nations that have not objected to the bloodshed.

Duterte takes issue with his tugboat

On a lighthearted note, Duterte told reporters on Sunday that there is one maritime issue he would really like to solve: his tugboat is too noisy.

Duterte resides at Bahay Pangarap in Manila, just across the Pasig River from his offices, and a tug carries him to work in the morning. “There’s a tugboat there. Tsug, tsug, tsug,” Duterte said in a news conference.

"When will this end? You might want to suggest to the congressmen to give me a nice boat, color white," he said. "Just a small ship or maybe a yacht-looking [boat] but not really a yacht."