Philippines: Duterte wants end to ‘war games’ with US

Philippine leader tells Filipinos in Vietnam that military drill with US in October will be the last during his term.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duterte was visiting Vietnam when he said that he wanted an end to the joint military drill with the US [Reuters]

President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that the military exercises between the Philippines and the United States scheduled for October will be the last under his administration. 

Duterte made the announcement on Wednesday during his official visit to Vietnam, signalling a shift away from an alliance that is one of the oldest in Asia.

“You [US] are scheduled to hold war games, which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now that this will be the last military exercise. Jointly, Philippines [and] the US? Last one,” Duterte said in a speech to the Filipino community in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. 

US and Philippines to launch ‘war games’ amid China row

The “amphibious landing exercise” involving 500 Filipino troops and 1,400 US forces is scheduled to take place from October 4 to 12, and is the first to be held under his administration.

The drill is separate from the annual joint military exercises that involve a larger contingent of US troops held every April.

“I will maintain the military alliance, the RP-US pact which our countries signed in the early 50s. But I will establish new alliances for trade and commerce,” Duterte said.

In a statement to Al Jazeera, the US State Department said it will “continue to focus on our broad relationship with the Philippines”.

“Our alliance is one of our most enduring and important relationships in the Asia Pacific region. It has been a cornerstone of stability for over 70 years. It is built on shared sacrifices for democracy and human rights and strong people-to-people and societal ties,” Julia Mason, a state department spokesman, said.

Mason said the US will continue to “work together in the many areas of mutual interest, including counterterrorism, to improve the livelihoods of the Philippine people and uphold our shared democratic values.”

In recent weeks Duterte has repeatedly declared that he wants to pursue an “independent foreign policy”, adding that he wants to “open alliances” with US rivals China and Russia. 

A US soldier gives instruction to his Filipino counterpart during a 2015 joint 'war games' at a military camp in northern Philippines [Reuters]
A US soldier gives instruction to his Filipino counterpart during a 2015 joint ‘war games’ at a military camp in northern Philippines [Reuters]

‘Currency manipulation’

On Tuesday, he accused the US of manipulating the currency market to weaken the Philippine peso.

Two days ago, he was also quoted as saying that he was “about to cross the Rubicon between me and the United States,” adding that the country was at the “point of no return” in its relations with its former coloniser.

Since he took office in June, Duterte has repeatedly expressed his disdain towards the US policy in the Philippines.

Philippines seeks US support against China

He had also expressed profanities at the US ambassador to the Philippines, calling him a gay “son of a whore.”  

Following the bombing in his hometown of Davao in early September, Duterte said he wants all US special forces based in Mindanao to leave.

During his first foreign trip as president, Duterte caused a diplomatic uproar when he reportedly uttered profanities towards US President Barack Obama, prompting the latter to cancel scheduled bilateral talks on the sideline of the ASEAN summit in Laos. 

Duterte also said that the Philippines will no longer join any patrol led by the US in the South China Sea. 

The Philippines recently won a case against China in the international court over disputed islands in the South China Sea, but Duterte said he was willing to set aside the ruling in exchange for Chinese investments.   

The US and the Philippines signed the Mutual Defence Treaty in 1951, declaring that both nations would support each other if either country was attacked by an external party.

The Philippines hosted two of the largest US military facilities outside of the US up until 1992, when a volcanic eruption and a Philippine senate vote forced the closure of these bases.

In 1998, US troops returned through a “visiting forces agreement”, and in April 2014, during the visit of President Barack Obama, the agreement was expanded to allow more troops into the country for an extended duration.

Source: Al Jazeera