'It's about time we rely on ourselves': Philippines officially terminates troop agreement with U.S

US during a drill near a Philippine army camp in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, north of Manila April 2012. © Romeo Ranoco / Reuters 314 US during a drill near a Philippine army camp in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, north of Manila
Manila has sent out a notice to the US embassy that it is withdrawing from the agreement that allowed American troops to step foot on the Philippine soil.

"It's about time we rely on ourselves, we will strengthen our own defences and not rely on any other country," Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular briefing.

The notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement was signed by Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr on Tuesday and “will be delivered to the US Embassy in Manila forthwith,” Undersecretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs Brigido Dulay said.

Signed in 1998, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) regulates the entry of US warships, aircraft and soldiers into the Philippines. It also allows the US troops to be immune from prosecution by local authorities for some of the crimes committed on the Philippine soil.

The decision to end the VFA comes after the US canceled the visa of former Philippines police chief, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, last month, who the Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses of leading extrajudicial killings during Duterte’s drug war. Duterte himself has threatened to terminate the military cooperation agreement with the US if it does not reverse the visa cancellation.

Panelo said that the nation is open to signing VFAs with other countries as long as they are “mutually beneficial, not one-sided.”

The two countries have had rocky relations ever since Duterte assumed office in 2016. The US officials have been critical of his campaign against drug cartels. The Philippine leader dismissed the attacks, saying that harsh measures are necessary to eradicate the drug-related organized crime, which has been plaguing the country.