MANILA, Philippines – Choosing between the U.S. and China is a "false choice" that President Rodrigo Duterte is forcing the country to make. He is eliminating other options to improve the country's security posture, said former Supreme Court senior associate Antonio Carpio.
The legal luminary who has championed an aggressive legal strategy towards China to protect Philippine territory offered a 3rd way: alliances.
"It is not true we should either be a Chinese province or a US territory. We can have alliances. Collective self-defense is allowed," Carpio said on Friday, February 28, in a forum in Makati that tackled Duterte's move to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.
Carpio has been supportive of multi-country cooperation in protecting the Philippines' security interests, a strategy the country has put in place by strengthening alliances with the US, Australia, Japan, and other countries supporting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
This strategy is threatened after the Philippines, upon orders from Duterte, sent notice on February 11 to the US that it is terminating the VFA. It's a move that has caused widespread concern over the country's security posture, given US's role in protecting the West Philippine Sea and the country's fight against radical extremism.
The termination will take effect after 180 days, although Philippine Ambasador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said Friday the "door is not totally shut."
"It is a national tragedy that should be resisted," said former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario.
The VFA is a security mechanism that allows and regulates the rotating presence of US troops in the Philippines. It was signed in 1998 to fill gaps in the country's security posture after the country evicted US bases in the country.