On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump dismissed concerns over the Philippines’ cancellation of a major military agreement, saying the decision would save Americans’ money.
The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) of 1998 provided a legal framework for the existence of US forces in the Philippines and for joint military exercises to be organized.
Manila declared its decision Tuesday. It is a move dubbed a “serious step” by the US embassy in the Philippines before the end of the deal six months later.
Also, Trump told reporters at the White House that he has a “very good relationship” with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
“If they would like to do that, that’s fine, we’ll save a lot of money,” Trump said.
After his election in 2016, famously outspoken Duterte has threatened to end the Filipino-American alliance, intending to foster its relations with Russia or China.
He mentioned specifically a desire to end the VFA once again in January after the US revoked senator and former national police chief Ronald Dela Rosa’s travel visa.
In the Philippines, the VFA is controversial, with leftist and nationalist critics claiming that it provides preferential treatment for members of the US military accused of crimes.
VFA supporters say ending the agreement would negatively impact the Southeast Asian Nation’s ability to defend itself and undermine the US goal of containing Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea.