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US Defense statement on Duterte’s decision to terminate VFA

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says dissolving the bilateral agreement with the Philippines that covers visiting U.S. military forces there “would be a move in the wrong direction.”

“We just got the notification late last night, we have to digest it, we have to work through the policy angles, the military angles, I want to hear from my commanders, but you know in my view it’s unfortunate that they would make this move,” Esper told reporters on his plane traveling from Washington to Brussels where he is scheduled to meet with NATO defense ministers.

“As we try to bolster our presence and compete with (China) in this era of great-power competition, I think it’s a move in the wrong direction, again for the long-standing relationship we’ve had with the Philippines, for their strategic location, for the ties between our peoples and our countries,” Esper added.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced the termination of a two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States (VFA), delivering on threats to downgrade an alliance important to U.S. interests.

The move comes after former police chief Ronald dela Rosa, said his U.S. visa was rescinded following the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.

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