Outspoken Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to eject American troops from his country, but that could leave the Philippines powerless against potential Chinese encroachment.
The U.S. and Philippines were enemies during the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902, with Washington only granting Manila full independence in 1946. But since a 1951 treaty that enables each country to aid one another during an invasion, the world's largest economy has maintained an on-and-off military presence on the island nation for decades.
But on Sunday, Duterte threatened to end a security pact signed in 2014 by his predecessor Benigno Aquino III, known as the Philippines-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The deal, which was only implemented in January, brought U.S. forces back onto to military bases in the Philippines for the first time since they were expelled in 1991.
Around 300 U.S. troops were being routinely rotated in and out of the country, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in May. In addition, there are also about 107 soldiers currently based in the southern province of Mindanao.
Duterte, also known as The Punisher, has ramped up his anti-American rhetoric in recent days after Washington, alongside Europe and other members of the international community, condemned the government's use of extra-judicial killings in a narcotics crackdown.
"Instead of helping us [with the war on drugs], the first to hit was the State Department. So you can go to hell, Mr Obama, you can go to hell," the former Davao City mayor was quoted as saying on Tuesday, adding that Washington had also refused to sell weapons to his administration.
The White House said Duterte's comments were "at odds" with the deeply rooted bilateral alliance, adding that Manila had yet to communicate any changes in the relationship, Reuters reported on Wednesday.