Military ties: Top, United States Marines and Philippine armed forces engage in a joint military exercise in Capas, Philippines (Oct. 10, 2016).Source: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images
American diplomats and Pentagon officials raised concerns over Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats of cutting military and diplomatic ties. “I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops,” Mr. Duterte stated, according to Reuters. This comes despite the Philippine military’s continued reliance on U.S. military forces.
President Duterte “has the executive power to abrogate the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a 10-year deal signed in 2014, which allowed the United States to deploy conventional forces in the Philippines for the first time in decades, rotating through five bases,” The Washington Post reported. “The deal was heralded as a key element of Obama’s strategic rebalance to Asia.”
The Pentagon considers the Philippines, one of America’s oldest allies in Asia, a strategic location to counterbalance Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. Removing U.S. forces from the area could result in Chinese expansion. In addition, the Philippines leader declared an interest in building ties with China, further straining the seven-decade alliance between America and the Philippines.
Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, stated: “…the succession of controversial statements, comments and a real climate of uncertainty about the Philippines’ intentions has created consternation in a number of countries, not only in mine, and not only among governments.”