The visiting forces agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, accords legal status to thousands of American troops rotated in the country for humanitarian assistance and military exercises, dozens of which take place annually. Duterte, who has made no secret of his grudge with the US and his disdain for his country’s close military relationship, believed it was time to be more militarily independent, his spokesman said. “It’s about time we rely on ourselves. We will strengthen our own defences and not rely on any other country,” Salvador Panelo told a regular briefing, quoting Duterte.
Defence ties between the Philippines and its former colonial ruler go back to the early 1950s and are governed by a mutual defence treaty (MTD), which remains intact, along with an enhanced defence cooperation agreement made under the Obama administration.