President Rodrigo Duterte finally made good on his threat to terminate a 1998 agreement that gave legal cover to American troops in the Philippines.
Manila’s termination notice, formally relayed to Washington on Tuesday, came after a key Duterte ally, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the former national police chief who led the bloody war on drugs, revealed that his US visa had been revoked.
Malacañan Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the instruction to terminate was relayed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Monday night.
Under treaty rules, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would be terminated 180 days after receipt of the termination notice by the United States, he said.
Duterte on Monday lashed out anew at the US for its criticism of the drug war and demanding the release a leading critic, Sen. Leila de Lima, detained on drug-related charges that she maintains were meant to silence her.
Duterte said US President Donald Trump himself sought to salvage the VFA, which provided legal protection to American troops in training and military exercises in the Philippines.
He also pointed out that an American submarine had been detected in the waters off Palawan, and did not seek clearance from Manila.
Panelo on Tuesday said Trump and Duterte did not talk personally but might have communicated through emissaries. While the two leaders had a cordial relationship, this was not the case between the two countries, the Palace spokesman noted.
Panelo also said the termination notice effectively overrun statements by US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper that there was no decision yet and that both sides would discuss the VFA during a Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in March.
Cooper on Tuesday told reporters in a teleconference that terminating the VFA, “puts at risk” military exercises. 
“[T]here’s a recognized, broad value of not only maintaining our Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that will beget further procurements and interoperability between the US-Philippine alliance, but the very practical application of a Visiting Forces Agreement that enables these activities like port calls, like engagements, like exercises,” the State official said.
The Senate, which approved the VFA in 1999, does not have a say on its termination, but may review other agreements such as the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that gave the US access to some military facilities, and the Mutual Logistics and Supply Agreement, Panelo said.

New partner?

Quoting the president, Panelo said “it’s about time we rely on our own resources. We have to strengthen our own capability as a country relative to the defense our land.”
“I’ve been noticing that those who’ve been criticizing the US government policies have been given the preferential attention of the US government,” he claimed.
Panelo disclosed that the United Kingdom had made an offer to the Philippine defense department to enter into an agreement.
He said the Philippines was open to having a VFA with other countries on the basis of “mutual benefit to both countries.”
“The president said that if we are to deal with other countries, we have to deal on the basis of equality and fairness. Hindi pupwedeng one-sided agreement,” he said. (