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Termination of Visiting Forces Agreement with US on hold
In this April 5, 2019 photo, US Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, hike with Philippine Marines on their way to conduct room clearing drills during Exercise Balikatan at the Navy Education Training Command in Zambales.
US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers

Termination of Visiting Forces Agreement with US on hold

(Philstar.com) - June 2, 2020 - 8:53pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 7:15 a.m., June 3, 2020) — The Philippines has suspended the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US "in light of political and other developments" in the region, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced on social media.

According to a diplomatic note that Locsin posted on his Twitter account, "the suspension shall start on even date and shall continue for six months" that the Philippines can extend for another six months.

The countdown to the termination of the agreement, as communicated to the US in February, will continue after that.

"I issued this diplomatic note to the US ambassador. It has been received by Washington and well at that. The Note is self-explanatory and does not require comment except from me. The abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement has been suspended upon the president’s instruction," Locsin said.

The US Embassy in Manila confirmed that on June 1, it has received the notification from the Philippine government to suspend termination of the VFA.

"The United States welcomes the Philippine government's decision. Our long-standing alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines," the US Embassy said in a statement.

The Philippines formally informed the US on February 11 that it is ending the VFA. Termination would have been effective 180 days from receipt of the notice.

President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to scrap the VFA came amid the administration's shift to strengthening ties with non-traditional partners like China and Russia and tension over concerns that the US raised over the human rights situation in the Philippines, which the government said was interference with domestic issues.

RELATED: Palace: Provision barring De Lima jailers from US actually exists | 'Why blame me?': Bato 'bothered' that canceled visa led to VFA termination

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in February that the move to terminate the agreement was unfortunate. The militaries of the Philippines and the US had around 300 military engagements planned in 2020, although these have been cancelled by Duterte's decision on the VFA as well as by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I do think it would be a move in the wrong direction as — as we both bilaterally with the Philippines and collectively with a number of other partners and allies in the region are trying to say to the Chinese, 'You must obey the international rules of order. You must obey, you know, abide by international norms'," he said then.

The termination of the VFA, analysts said, could also scrap the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that allowed American troops to use some Philippine military facilities.

The US Embassy in Manila said in February that Washington will remain committed to the friendship between the two countries.

"This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance. We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests," the US Embassy said then.

US President Donald Trump said then of Duterte's cancellation of the VFA: "If they would like to do that, that's fine. We'll save a lot of money."

PHILIPPINES-US MILITARY EXERCISES PHILIPPINES-US TIES VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 16, 2021 - 10:43am

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which will expire 180 days after the notice of termination is sent to the US.

That notice was sent on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, according to Philippine government officials.

Duterte had previously warned the United States that he will terminate the VFA if the cancellation of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa's US visa—believed but not confirmed to have been over the continued detention of Sen. Leila De Lima and the government's "war on drugs"—is not "corrected".

The decision to terminate comes amid a resolution by the Senate recognizing the president's authority to terminate agreements and treaties but also asking him to hold off on the decision while lawmakers conduct a review of the VFA and other agreements with America.

Activist groups have been calling on the government to scrap the deal since 1999, saying the Visiting Forces Agreement favors the US, keeps the Philippine military dependent on assistance and aid, and puts the Philippines at risk from America's enemies.

Main photo: In this May 19, 2018 file photo, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat and US Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley lead the ceremonial furling of the Balikatan flag during the closing ceremony of the Philippine-US military exercises. The STAR/Boy Santos

February 16, 2021 - 10:43am

Sen. Panfilo Lacson reminds President Rodrigo Duterte that under the Constitution, a senator also has something to do with international agreements.

The president earlier told Lacson that he has nothing to do with the issue of the Visiting Forces agreement between the Philippines and the United States.

"Even an ordinary citizen of this country who feels embarrassed by his harsh, undiplomatic remarks concerning an existing bilateral agreement is guaranteed under the same Constitution to express his views. Not anyone, even he as President can curtail that basic right," Lacson says.

December 9, 2020 - 12:39pm

The US defense department has boostedthe Armed Forces of the Philippines' counter-terrorism capability with new equipment, the US Embassy in Manila says.

The capability upgrade is among the P1.4-billion ($29.3 million) in defense articles recently transferred to the AFP, Acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller tells senior Philippine military officials as he met with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Tuesday in Manila.

In a statement provided by the US Embassy, Miller stresses the importance of the US-Philippine alliance to national and regional security.

Miller says the defense articles that were turned over last December 2 were transferred to several special mission units of the AFP to support its modernization goals.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) lauded the capability, especially the anti-Improvised Explosive Device equipment, which will form part of force protection noting that in the recent campaign troops have engaged terrorists rigging IEDs in its attacks.  — The STAR/Roel Pareño

November 12, 2020 - 11:51am

"We welcome the Government of the Philippines’ November 11 decision to suspend termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for another six months," the US Embassy says in a statement to mdia.

"The U.S.-Philippines alliance remains vital to our robust, deep-rooted bilateral relationship. The United States will continue to partner closely with the Philippines to strengthen our mutual security ties."

November 11, 2020 - 3:08pm

The Philippines extends the suspension of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States for another six months.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to extend the VFA abrogation “to enable us to find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement on how to move forward in our mutual defense.”

June 3, 2020 - 9:16am

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will consult with the Office of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces on issues that need to be addressed on the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA with the United States.

According to Lorenzana, the country's defense establishment is ready to continue working with the US on common concerns, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In times of crises and global uncertainty, it is our belief that nations are only made stronger if we work together and focus our efforts on tackling the various challenges that confront us all," Lorenzana says in a statement.

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