The unpredictable Philippine president has once again cast uncertainty over the decades-old U.S.-Philippines alliance.
President Rodrigo Duterte suggested Tuesday that he plans to do away with the Enhanced Cooperation Defense Agreement (EDCA), an important document that gives the U.S. access to five military bases in the Philippines.
“You have the EDCA. Well, forget it. If I stay here long enough, one day that EDCA will, if it’s an executive agreement, then I will just …,” Duterte concluded with a sweeping gesture, indicating that he would scrap the agreement, reports Rappler.
“I do not want to see any military man of any other nation except for the Philippine soldier,” he added, “That’s the long and short of it. I want an independent policy that doesn’t follow anyone.”
Duterte also emphasized that he is not a U.S. “lapdog,” revealed the Philippine Star.
Duterte first brought EDCA into question earlier this month, stating, “Now, may I remind the Americans that [EDCA] is an official document, but…it does not bear the signature of the president of the Republic of the Philippines. He vowed to review the agreement. “I would be asking you to leave the Philippines altogether,” he further noted.
The U.S. and the Philippines signed EDCA in 2014, and the Philippine Supreme Court ruled the agreement constitutional in January of this year. EDCA was created to transform the Philippines into a staging area for the projection of American naval and air power. It was intended to facilitate efforts to counter China’s military expansion into the South China Sea.
EDCA allows for a rotational presence of U.S. aircraft, ships, and personnel in the Philippines, as well as the building of facilities for the storage of American equipment and materials.
“This is a really a pretty big deal,” U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, who signed the agreement, reportedly told the U.S. Department of State.
The agreement was expected to prepare the way for improved American forward deployment, but Duterte has demonstrated a clear objection to EDCA.
Duterte has already canceled joint patrols and war games with the U.S. He has also called for the removal of troops from Mindanao, a region in the south where a small U.S. force is helping Filipino soldiers combat the region’s severe Islamic insurgency problem.
The president of the Philippines has also threatened to “break up with America” and called for a “separation from America.”
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