Trump 'fine' with end of Philippines military pact

US- Philippines

Filipino and US soldiers march during the closing ceremony of a joint US-Philippine military exercise in 2018

Esper said the termination, set to take effect in 180 days, runs counter to bilateral efforts with the Philippines and collective efforts with regional allies to push China toward abiding by worldwide norms in the region. I don't really mind if they would like to do that; it will save a lot of money. If they would like to do that, that's fine.

Trump added, however, that he has a "very good relationship" with Duterte, AFP reports.

"Exploring other options like inking similar defense treaties with other nations, as posited by the CSAFP (chief of staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines) is fine, but the reality is, it doesn't happen overnight", Lacson said in a text message.

Once the termination is final, the Philippines would "cease to have exercises" with the U.S., Lorenzana said.

Panelo said the Palace respects Trump's response to Duterte's abrogation of Manila's VFA with Washington.

"The statements of Mr. Trump, we do not know exactly whether he was very serious (about) that. You must remember that the VFA and other treaties are there precisely because of the global, strategic, defensive positioning of the United States", Panelo said.

"Three years ago, when ISIS was over running the Philippines, we came in and literally single-handedly were able to save them from vicious attacks on their islands", Trump said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group. "My views are different from others", he added. "We weaken ourselves if we keep on being (a) parasite to any of the countries", he said. US Defence Secretary Mark Esper called the decision "unfortunate" as Washington and its allies press China to abide by "international rules" in Asia.

Panelo said Duterte's stance to rescind VFA "remains unchanged". Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is admittedly not flawless for the Philippines as far as equitability is concerned, the timing and reasons for its abrogation are "way off the mark". We've got to work through it, and we'll just take a deep breath and take it one day at a time. "We can not be forever relying on the Americans for our defenses".

The Philippines is locked in a series of maritime territorial disputes with China and military cooperation between the Philippines and the seen as key to containing China and pushing back against its territorial claims. They can also fly to the host country without passport and visa restrictions. Duterte had also reacted against Washington's criticism of Manila for human rights abuses in the drug war.

Panelo based his remarks on Duterte's "body language" and pronouncement of strengthening the Philippines' defense capabilities.

"To be consistent with his stand, then all treaties must go", Panelo said.

"If he says that we have to stand on our own and not rely [on others] that means we'll have to strengthen our own resources".

The agreement provides a framework for the temporary entry of USA troops to the Philippines for joint-training exercises with Filipino forces. "We don't need other countries", Panelo explained in a mix of Filipino and English.

"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", the USA defense secretary said on route to Brussels.

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