Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Losin said on social media on Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to “reserve the “Visiting Forces Agreement” based on political and other developments in the region.”
The agreement was signed in 1988, allowing US military aircraft and ships to enter the Philippines freely, and relaxing visa restrictions on US military personnel.
The US Embassy in Manila issued a statement saying: “Our long-term alliance has benefited both countries. We look forward to continuing close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines.”
The Philippines was once home to two of the largest U.S. military bases outside the United States: Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base.
Although these were no longer US bases in the early 1990s, according to VFA, the US military can still use them, and Manila maintains strong military ties with Washington.
But in the past few years, Duterte has been deviating from the historical connection with the United States and turning to China, which has established closer economic relations with Manila.
Duterte said before flying to China in April 2018: “I need China. At this point, I need China more than anyone.”
Compared with his predecessor, Duterte believes that the Philippines’ ongoing territorial dispute over the South China Sea is more negotiable.
The Philippines and China are among the countries that have overlapping claims to the sea or parts of the sea. Although the borders of other claimants are closer to the disputed waters, China claims to own almost all of the 1.3 million square miles of land in the South China Sea.
However, China has been strengthening its military presence on the islands claimed by Manila.
In the past two months, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has moved advanced anti-submarine warfare and reconnaissance aircraft to the Fiery Cross Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) on the chain of the Nansha Islands, which is Kagitingan in the Philippines.
Beijing has also made the Fiery Cross a part of Hainan Province, creating two new administrative regions covering the South China Sea and headquartered in the Xisha Islands, another controversial island group.
According to the AMTI satellite analysis released in March, an average of 18 Chinese ships sail around the island every day, which hinders the Philippines’ efforts to establish infrastructure on the island.
Locsin said on Wednesday that the Philippines believes that the United States will play a role in the region for some time to come.
He said: “We hope to continue to build a strong military partnership with the United States, even if we continue to build a common defense with our regional allies to achieve lasting stability, peace and sustained economic progress and prosperity worldwide.” Ever.
Sophie Jeong of CNN contributed to this report.