Earlier this week, Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin announced that the Philippines would temporarily suspend its denunciation in February of the Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). While an important temporary pardon for the Alliance, it leaves unresolved the same broader strategic issues that demonize the relationship under the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. According to many observers, the obvious reason for the dismissal was the U.S. decision to withdraw the visa from Senator Ronald dela Rosa, a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte. Dela Rosa led the Philippine National Police in 2016-18 and was considered the “primary executor” of Duterte`s controversial “war on drugs,” which led to thousands of extrajudicial killings. The presidential palace also reportedly called a series of actions by the U.S. Congress an “attack” on Philippine sovereignty, including U.S. laws on the appropriation of foreign operations (P.L. 116-94; S.Rept. 116-126), which prohibits the entry of Philippine officials determined to have “participated in the illegal detention” of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a critic of the anti-Justice campaign. But Duterte has long expressed a more fundamental desire to reduce the Philippines` dependence on the United States. In response to this assessment, the President`s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, quoted Duterte on 11 February 2020 as saying: “It is time to trust ourselves.
We will strengthen our own defence and not rely on any other country. According to Ordaniel, the Philippine military “does not have the capacity to deter” – and this could force Beijing to interpret the end of the VFA as an open invitation to consolidate its claims to the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands, which an international court ruled in 2016 as part of the Philippines` exclusive economic zone. However, a more confident Chinese position in the South China Sea could also lead to “a more aggressive U.S. role in the South China Sea and in the Indo-Pacific space,” Tuazon said, especially since a loss of Manila as a reliable U.S. defense ally would break the so-called first chain of islands between Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo.