Duterte extends suspension of VFA termination
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - November 11, 2020 - 3:19pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:50 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to extend the suspension of the Philippines' withdrawal from its Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Wednesday.

Locsin said Duterte instructed him to convey his decision to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the defense pact with the country's longtime ally and former colonizer for another six months.

The president came with the decision "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."

In a statement addressed to US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Locsin said he will send a diplomatic note about this latest development.

"The past four years have changed the South China Sea from one of uncertainty about great powers’ intentions to one of predictability and resulting stability with regard to what can and cannot be done, what will and will not be acceptable with regard to the conduct of any protagonist in the South China Sea," Locsin said.

With the fresh extension, the VFA termination will take effect 69 days after June 1, 2021, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

VFA terminated in February

In February, Locsin seerved the notice of termination to the US Embassy in Manila. The Philippines' withdrawal from the agreement would have been effective 180 days from receipt of notice.

The termination of the VFA was prompted by the cancellation of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa's US visa, although the Palace said that the decision to end the agreement was caused by many factors, including what the government says is US meddling in domestic matters.

The revocation of Dela Rosa's visa is believed to be over his role, when he was Philippine National Police chief, in the government's "war on drugs", and the continued detention of Sen. Leila De Lima, a vocal government critic who is facing drug charges that she denies and says were politically-motivated.

Duterte had given the US a month to "correct" the revocation of the visa.

Termination suspended in June

The Philippines, however, suspended the termination of the VFA for six months "in light of political and other developments" in the region in June. The initial suspension of the termination would have ended in December.

Following the suspension, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the decision of Duterte on the termination of the VFA was due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The US has been providing assistance, such as equipment for quarantine facilities, to the Philippines in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

"We need to cooperate with other countries to fight the pandemic and I think the president (Duterte) thought that it's untimely to end the VFA at this moment," Lorenzana said told CNN Philippines in June.

During a visit to Manila last year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured the Philippines that any armed attack against Filipinos in the South China Sea would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countrys.

In July, more than a month after the US received the notification from the Philippine government, Pompeo declared Washington's new policy on South China Sea.

Pompeo said the US would consider Beijing's claims to offshore resources in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, as "completely unlawful."

"The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire," Pompeo said.

RODRIGO DUTERTE UNITED STATES US-PHILIPPINES TIES VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 12, 2020 - 11:51am

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

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.

June 2, 2020 - 8:24pm

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. says.

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 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.

March 5, 2020 - 1:34pm

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers is calling on the Senate to not get in the way of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, saying a resolution that the chamber adopted shows "who among our top legislators remain to be partial to the US."

The Senate this week adopted a resolution asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether the concurrence of the Senate is needed in abrogating treaties, as it is in ratifying them.

The move "seems like a thinly veiled, last minute attempt to salvage [the Philippines'] unequal ties with US, and puts into question our senators' loyalty to the country over protecting foreign interests," ACT national chairperson Joselyn Martinez says in a release.

"Legitimizing the use of our territories and resources for US military purposes violates our sovereignty. So does allowing US soldiers' presence in our lands all-year round and letting them get away with several cases of grave human rights violations against our peoples," Martinez also says.

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