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Duterte still likely to end troop deployment deal with America

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PHILSTAR/KRIZJOHN ROSALES

THE GOVERNMENT of President Rodrigo R. Duterte is bent on ending a military agreement with the US on the deployment of troops for war games, the presidential palace said on Thursday.

This is despite a United States offer to fix the visa of Senator Ronald M. de la Rosa, the very reason for the President’s decision in February to end the visiting forces agreement (VFA), Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque told an online news briefing.

“The President has not changed his decision to defer the termination of the VFA for six months,” he said.

Mr. Duterte in February officially informed the US of his decision to end the military pact after the US visa of Mr. de la Rosa, his former police chief who enforced his deadly war on drugs, was canceled.

The US Embassy earlier said the senator could reapply for it.

Mr. Duterte last month suspended the termination of the deal “in light of political and other developments in the region,” including the coronavirus pandemic, according to its Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The suspension of the 21-year-old pact is effective for half a year and may be extended by six more months, DFA said.

The agreement provides the legal framework for the temporary presence of US troops in the Philippines.

The President suspended his decision to abandon the pact because tensions in the South China Sea were getting in the way of a united response to the COVID-19 crisis, DFA said earlier.

Mr. Roque said they were glad the US understands that it should not have treated Mr. de la Rosa that way, which he said was an insult.

Mr. Duterte pushed for the cancellation of the VFA initially because of the visa issue but later said he had always wanted the Philippines to lose its dependence on the US.

Mr. de la Rosa, a long-time friend of the President, earlier said the US Embassy had called him up and said he could reapply for his US visa. The call came after Mr. Duterte’s phone call with US President Donald Trump in April.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. earlier said the presence of three US Navy aircraft carriers in the South China Sea had nothing to do with Mr. Duterte’s decision to defer the termination of the two-decade-old military agreement.

Three American aircraft carriers were patrolling the Indo-Pacific waters for the first time in nearly three years, a massive show of naval force in a region roiled by spiking tensions between the US and China, the Associated Press reported on June 12.

The patrol of the three warships, accompanied by Navy cruisers, destroyers, fighter jets and other aircraft comes as the United States escalates criticism of China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, its moves to impose greater control over Hong Kong and its island-building activities in the disputed waterway. — Gillian M. Cortez





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