Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE) - (14.02.2020)- President Donald Trump has played down the decision by the Philippines President Duterte to terminate its military alliance with the United States. Manila has triggered a six months’ notice period.

‘To be honest, that has never really worried me’ Trump told journalists. ‘If they really want to do it, it’s no problem. That will allow us to save a lot of money.’ At the same time he stressed that he had very good relations with Rodrigo Duterte. However, the US Embassy described the decision as ‘grave’.

The 7,641 island state was a US colony from 1898 until 1946 and has close economic and cultural relations with the US. The two countries are linked by a defense treaty and US forces take part in a number of military tasks with the Philippines armed forces. Over three hundred joint military exercises take place every year.

Since his election in 2016, Duterte has frequently threatened to end the Visiting Forces Agreement, last revised in 1998, in favor of Russia or China. The most serious incident was the refusal by the US to grant a visa to ex chief of police and now Senator Ronald Dela Ros.

Philippine opinion is divided over the agreement. The left and the militant nationalists have for a long time criticized the privileged legal status of US servicemen who commit crimes. Those in favor cite the need for support in keeping the Chinese in check in the South China Sea.

Justifying the decision President Duterte said that the country could not forever rely on others for its defense.

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