Duterte wants US troops out of the Philippines in 2 years

Tokyo, Oct 26 (IANS) The Philippines President on Wednesday expressed his desire to put an end to US military presence in the country in the next two years.

Rodrigo Duterte said in order to do so, he will review or repeal existing bilateral agreements, Efe news reported.

“I have declared that I will pursue an independent foreign policy. I want, maybe in the next two years, my country freed of the presence of foreign military troops,” Duterte declared at an economic forum in Tokyo during a three-day visit to Japan.

“I want them out and if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, I will,” added Duterte, in an apparent reference to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

In his address to Japanese companies and financial institutions and senior Japanese government officials, Duterte acknowledged US support, saying “it’s a great country, it has helped us in so many ways in the past”, but added that the Philippines “will survive without the assistance of America. Maybe a lesser quality of life …”

Duterte also said he wanted to be a “friend” to China and “I do not want missiles established in my country” — a reference to the massive US military deployment in the Philippines to counter China’s rise in the region.

The EDCA, signed between Manila and Washington in 2014 and negotiated by his predecessor, Benigno Aquino, allows the US to use Philippine bases for a 10-year period and have greater military presence in the region, the scene of a territorial conflict in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Duterte also met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after the forum, where the latter urged him to repair relations with the US, according to Japanese government officials.