Timeline: Constant US troop presence amid Duterte's changing moods

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Timeline: Constant US troop presence amid Duterte's changing moods
In this June 30, 2017 photo, US Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, 3d Marine Division train Philippine Marines in basic urban warfare techniques during Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama.
US Embassy / Released, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has once again threatened to end the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, this time in response to the cancellation of Sen. Bato dela Rosa's US visa.

The president gave Washington a month to "correct" the visa cancellation of Dela Rosa, who was top cop when Duterte launched his bloody "drug war" in 2016.

This would not be the first time that Duterte has issued an ultimatum against the country's long-time ally and former colonizer.


In September 2016, Duterte declared an end to the annual Philippines-US Balikatan exercise, saying as he is seeking to establish new trade and commercial alliances with China and Russia.

The president said the joint military exercises with US troops were something that Beijing does not want.

RELATED: Duterte to US troops: Leave MindanaoUS troops to remain in Mindanao – DND

Duterte also announced that he would be cutting economic and military ties with the US in October 2016 after American officials raised concerns over extrajudicial killings linked to the so-called war on drugs.

Duterte's economic managers Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia were quick to clarify in the wake of the president's speech that the Philippines will maintain economic ties with the West.


In January 2017, Duterte threatened to abrogate the VFA and called on the US military to stop unloading weapons in the country. The president claimed that US troops were building a depot in the Philippines and were unloading arms in Palawan, Cagayan de Oro and Pampanga.

Duterte's declaration in 2016 to end the Balikatan exercise with Washington would remain just a threat as the Philippines and the US would carry on with the annual joint military exercise the following year.

However, the war games had been dropped from the Balikatan exercise in 2017 and with smaller contingents from both sides.

In this file photo from 2017, Philippine Marines deploy from a landing craft for a simulated disaster response operation. The 2017 Balikatan exercises focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

The military said the joint military drills' focus would shift to humanitarian assistance and disaster response that year since disasters and typhoons are inevitable in the Philippines.

In November 2017, Duterte and US President Donald Trump would agree to additional exercises between the two countries as part of their commitment to enhance counterterrorism cooperation.

They also agreed to increase information sharing and addressing the drivers of conflict and extremism.


In April 2018, Duterte recognized the importance of the country's military alliances with the United States and Japan since World War II.

The Balikatan exercise would also continue this year with a focus on mutual defense and counterterrorism.

In a statement for the commemoration of the Day of Valor, the president called the US "our strong military and economic ally", despite previously threatening to break ties.

In this file photo from 2018, a US Marine amphibious assault vehicle prepares to land on a beach in San Antonio, Zambales. Seen in the background is the Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

The US Embassy said in September 2018 that the Philippines is the largest recipient of American military assistance in the region valued at over P15 billion since 2015.

Molly Koscina, US Embassy spokesperson at the time, said Washington supports the Armed Forces of the Philippines' modernization through a variety of programs and initiatives.

Upon concluding the 2018 Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board in September 2018, the AFP and the US Ind-Pacific Command agreed to conduct 281 security cooperation activities for 2019.


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would reaffirm Washington's commitment to defend the Philippines in case of any armed confrontation in the West Philippine Sea under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

A month after Pompeo visit to Manila in March 2019, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the US will remain the only military ally of the country.

“Why the US, the only world power that is a bastion of democracy and human rights, is and will remain our only military ally. We don’t need any other,” Locsin tweeted.

In this April 5, 2019 photo, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp maneuvers alongside the Philippine Navy offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker

Despite Duterte's previous order to scale down the Balikatan exercise as part of his so-called independent foreign policy, the US deployed new fighter jets and amphibious assault carrier USS Wasp to the war games.

Last year's Baliktan included amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations and counterterrorism response.

By September 2019, then AFP chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. and US Indo-Pacific Command commander Adm. Philip Davidson signed an agreement planning more than 300 security cooperation activities for 2020.

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