Philippines-U.S. military training exercises to be discontinued

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American soldiers of 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division walk during a combined training exercise with Senegalese 1st Paratrooper Battalion in Thies on July 25, 2016. The first in a series of planned annual USARAF exercises, ART 2016 brings together U.S. Army Soldiers from U.S. Africa Command's Regionally Aligned Force with African partners to increase U.S. and partner readiness through tough and realistic training, including combined live-fire events, counter-improvised explosive device detection and combat casualty care. / AFP / SEYLLOU (Photo credit should read SEYLLOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Manila – All joint training exercises between the Philippines and the United States be discontinued when the termination of a 21-year-old defence pact takes effect in August, the Philippine Defence Secretary said on Thursday.

The Defence Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, said the U.S. can also opt cancel activities even before the termination of the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) takes effect 180 days after the notice was sent by the Philippine government on Tuesday.

“With the formal serving of the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, this year’s planned military exercises with the Americans shall proceed as scheduled within the 180 days that the VFA remains in force,’’ he said in a statement.

“However, our American counterparts may opt discontinue the scheduled exercises before the 180 days are up.

“Once the termination is final, we cease have exercised with them.’’

The VFA provides legal cover for the entry of U.S. troops in the Philippines for joint training exercises with Filipino forces.

The pact can be terminated through written notice from either party, which would take effect in 180 days.

According presidential spokesman, Salvador Panelo, the termination followed a series of “legislative and executive actions by the US government that bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system’’.

Rodrigo Duterte first threatened the termination after the U.S. cancelled the tourist visa of Ronald Dela Rosa, a close ally and the former national chief.

It was unclear why Dela Rosa’s visa was cancelled, but it is believed to relate to his leading role implementing Duterte’s violent crackdown against illegal drugs, which left more 5,000 suspected drug users and dealers dead.