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Bayan urges Duterte to formalize break with US

Protesters march towards the US Embassy for a rally in commemoration of the 117th anniversary of the Philippine-American war Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The protesters are demanding the abolition of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA following the Philippine Supreme Court's decision upholding its constitutionality and effectively allows American forces, ships and planes to temporarily station in local military camps. AP/Bullit Marquez, file
MANILA, Philippines -- Bagong Alyansang Makabayan welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte's announced "separation" from the US and called on him to make the break formal.
In a press statement, Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said that the president should transmit a letter to the US embassy to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, "if indeed the president is serious."
He added that the country "should also demand indemnification from the US for the sufferings and wastes caused by its former military bases."
In a separate statement, Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago welcomed the announcement, saying "it further stokes the patriotic spirit of the Filipino people."
Kabatan is part of the Bayan-affiliated Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives.
"Duterte’s strong policy pronouncements against Washington should be followed by concrete patriotic assertions. What we are talking about is the immediate pull-out of US troops in the country. What we are talking about is the scrapping of all existing lopsided treaties with Washington, including the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement," Elago also said.
Speaking at a forum in Beijing on Thursday, Duterte, who is in China for a state visit, said that he is "separating" from the US economically and militarily. It is not yet clear what that means and the Palace has said that the president's words should not be interpreted.
Duterte has made statements in the past that have had to be clarified or "put into context" by his spokespersons.
"I don’t think there is a need for us to make haka-haka (speculations) on that. Because once the paper is out already on that matter, then it would be clear anong direction ang tatahakin natin," Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said in a press briefing Friday.
Duterte's economic managers have said, however, that the Philippines will maintain relations with the West while also focusing on strengthening regional ties.
The US has said it will seek clarification of Duterte's announcement. 
In the meantime, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said America "remains rock solid in our commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty that we have with the Philippines." 
He added that the US and the Philippines have strong economic and military ties. "We want to see those ties continue and we want to see them deepen and strengthen," he said.

Bayan: Don't jump from one imperialist lap to another

In the same speech, Duterte, possibly in jest, said that the Philippines "will be dependent on you (China) for all times" after the supposed separation from the US.
"The Philippines is right to assert independence from the US. However, we cannot simply jump from one imperialist lap to another. We are aware of the geopolitical interests of China and Russia vis-a-vis the US. China and Russia have long been capitalist powers that have come into contradiction with the US," Reyes said.
He added that the national interest must come first even as the Philippines develops better ties with China and Russia.
"China must not require us to surrender our sovereignty and valid claims in the disputed areas. It must not impose its nine-dash-line claim as a starting point in bilateral talks," he also said.
In July, the Philippines won an arbitration case against China's claim over parts of the South China Sea that Manila claims and calls the West Philippine Sea according to the UN Covenant on the Law of the Sea. The international arbitral tribunal ruled that China's nine-dash-line claim does not have legal basis, a decision that Beijing has ignored. It has insisted on its historical claim over the area.
Before leaving for China, Duterte said that he would set aside the South China Sea dispute but that he would ask China to allow Filipino fishers into Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag and Bajo de Masinloc, a traditional fishing ground off Zambales province. 
The subject of Scarborough did not come up in a meeting between Duterte and China President Xi Jinping on Thursday. The two countries have, however, agreed to resume bilateral talks on the sea dispute.
China has promised the Philippines $9 billion in soft loans.
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