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Philippines scrapping military cooperation pact with US

The Philippines will end a two-decade-long military agreement with the U.S., officials announced Tuesday.

The nation’s announcement that it will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement comes amid increasingly friendly relations with China and a cooling of the U.S.-Filipino relationship under President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as reluctance on the Philippines’ part to confront Beijing over South China Sea territorial disputes, The New York Times reported.

About 300 joint exercises between the two nations’ militaries take place annually under the deal, with allows the U.S. to rotate military forces through Philippine bases. While the agreement is still in place, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter that Philippine officials have delivered the notice to terminate to the American Embassy in Manila. The delivery will start a 180-day countdown after which the pact will officially lapse, the Times reported.

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“The deputy chief of mission of the United States has received the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Locsin said.

Duterte, who has become well-known for incendiary comments, has frequently made threats to the U.S. without following through, but has grown increasingly hostile toward the U.S. lately, due in large part to its denial of a visa to Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a primary architect of the nation’s crackdown on drug dealers and users that, as of January, is estimated by human rights groups to have killed over 12,000 people.

Locsin himself urged the Philippine Senate against pulling out of the deal last week, according to the Times, and has said that neither he nor the nation’s Defense Department were consulted. Locsin said the agreement was crucial in allowing Philippine troops to receive aid against threats such as terrorists, who seized the city of Marawi in 2017.