- The Philippine President has announced his intention to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement, which will facilitate the U.S. military presence in his country.
- The actual end of this pact is still a long way off, but similar decisions in the past have left Manila in a weaker position to counter China's ambitions in the region.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte followed numerous threats on Tuesday to end his country's visiting forces agreement with the United States, and informed Washington of his intention to withdraw, which triggered a 180-day countdown.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said on Friday that he thinks both sides could reach a political solution, but recent history suggests that the pact's downfall could be an opportunity for China in a strategically valuable region.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly criticized the U.S. and U.S. officials. The United States, which ruled the Philippines as a colony in the first half of the 20th century, remains closely associated with the Philippines and is very popular there – as is Duterte 87% approval In December.
The Philippine president nevertheless decided to end the VFA. His spokesman said it was "time for us to rely on ourselves" and that the country "would strengthen our own defense and not rely on another country."
While President Donald Trump said he had "nothing against" the US embassy in the Philippines said it would "carefully consider how best to proceed," and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said it was "a step in the way." wrong direction".
When asked about the decision on Friday, McCarthy campaigned for US-Philippines relations.
Washington and Manila have "a long history" of "very tough cooperation" and "very strong" military relations, McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. "We have about 175 days to work through this diplomatically. I think we can get to a final state that will work politically for all of us."
The United States and the Philippines are also bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Defense Cooperation Agreement, but ending the VFA would undercut this and the U.S. law enforcement agencies in the Philippines.
The latter effect would jeopardize hundreds of military exercises and other military collaborations. US Special Forces troops have been deployed to the Philippines to help combat ISIS-related militants, and the US military has trained there with other countries in the region. The Philippines has also hosted U.S. troops deployed on Pacific Pathways, which should allow the U.S. and armed forces in the region to build stronger partnerships and readiness.
When asked about the impact of the VFA withdrawal on the US base and training, McCarthy said Friday that "talks are underway", particularly between the White House and the State Department.
"The VFA would basically change the freedoms you need for training," said McCarthy, "but this is a very close ally and we would work through it, but it is basically (a change) that Protocols of how you would work together if it actually works. "
There are a number of reasons why the VFA can ultimately survive. The Philippine military and security forces value the relationship in which they receive military support, training, education and weapons.
Filipino officials have proposed to review the VFA "Address issues of sovereignty"But I stopped pushing for a retreat. Dutert's Foreign Minister also said Tuesday that the announcement should be seen as the starting point for such negotiations." saying "Other reactions were idiotic."
But it is not the first time that the Philippines is withdrawing from this kind of business. In 1991 it was not renewed a basic mutual agreement that resulted in the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific, and the withdrawal of US forces.
Manila "quickly realized that afterwards it became largely defenseless with its limited military capabilities and that China actually took very courageous measures in the South China Sea, including the occupation of the Mischief Reef," said Prashanth Parameswaran, editor-in-chief at The Diplomat on the diplomatic podcast,
"We are now in a situation where we are not just talking hypothetically about what could happen," added Parameswaran. "We actually have a historical record of what happens when the Alliance goes through such periods."
Duterte has made concessions on other issues by pushing Washington forward, said Parameswaran, calling a similar outcome this time the "optimistic scenario," but given the impulsiveness of Duterte and Trump, "remains an element of risk."
Agreements such as the VFA need time to negotiate and ratify – after the end of the basic agreement in 1991, the two countries were only able to establish the VFA in 1998 – and other countries in the region, such as Australia and Japan, cannot replace military aid for the United States the Philippines, making Manila weaker given Chinese ambitions.
"This is the big, worrying scenario for Day 181," said Parameswaran, "because the Filipino military is building its capabilities, but it is still one of the weakest in the Asia-Pacific region, and it will be." exposed on day 181 if this is not resolved. "