After fresh VFA extension, US reaffirms commitment to Philippines' rights in WPS

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Welcoming the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to further extend the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the United States on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to protecting the Philippines' sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea is the part of the South China Sea within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone. 

US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said Washington is looking forward to the VFA — termination of which has been suspended — continuing to facilitate closer cooperation in combatting terrorism.

"We also hope to expand our cooperation on a whole range of security challenges, from disaster relief to maritime security. Know that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippines," O'Brien said.

A few weeks ago, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that President Rodrigo Duterte decided to extend the suspension of the termination of the VFA with the US for another six months.

O'Brien is in Manila for the handover of Washington's donation of defense materials worth approximately P868 million ($18 million), which US President Donald Trump promsied to Duterte in a phone call in April.

WPS resources 'belong to the Philippine people' 

Noting Washington's latest policy declaration on the South China Sea, O'Brien pointed out that the US had formally aligned its position on the maritime dispute with the Philippines' arbitral win in July 2016.

The landmark ruling invalidated China's expansive claims over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

"We stand with the Philippines in protecting your sovereign rights, your offshore resources and all of those rights that are consistent with international law," O'Brien said.

O'Brien also reiterated the earlier remarks of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that any armed attack on Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea will trigger the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

"And I just want to say that those resources belong to the children and grandchildren of the people here. They belong to the Philippine people," the US official said.

"They don’t belong to some other country that just because might, they may be big, and they may be bigger than the Philippines, they can come take away and convert the resources of the Philippine people," he added.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 23, 2020 - 2:54pm

A thread of major developments in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States from April to December 2020. (Photo by AFP/Mark Cristino)

November 23, 2020 - 2:54pm

US national security adviser Robert O'Brien affirms Washington's commitment to the Philippines in protecting its sovereign rights, offshore resources and rights consistent with international law.

Citing Washington's realignment of its position on the South China Sea with the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidate Beijing's expansive claims, O'Brien stresses that resources in the area belong to the Filipino people.

"They don’t belong to some other country that just because might, they may be big, and they may be bigger than the Philippines, they can come take away and convert the resources of the Philippine people," O'Brien says.

October 7, 2020 - 1:03pm

The US Embassy in the Philippines says the US government has turned over 150 laptop computers, printers, projectors and 80 sets of learning materials to the Department of Education through the United States Agency for International Development. 

"This assistance is part of USAID’s Opportunity 2.0, a five-year, P1.9-billion ($37.5 million) project that works with DepEd, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and local governments to support their ongoing programs to provide relevant education, employability skills, and work experience to out-of-school youth," the US Embassy says in a statement.

August 19, 2020 - 8:56am

The US government launches a new program to provide second-chance opportunities to at least 180,000 out-of-school youth in the Philippines.

Under the five-year "Opportunity 2.0" project, which is worth P1.9 billion, the USAID will partner with DepEd and TESDA to augment their ongoing programs that provide relevant education, employability skills and work experience.

"Through this new partnership, we can leverage a range of resources to maximize the potential of the Filipino youth, particularly those who are out-of-school or unemployed. With the right knowledge, attitudes, and skills, they will play a pivotal role in this great country’s growth and success over the long-term," US Ambassador Sung Kim says.

August 7, 2020 - 8:05am

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to discuss the recent change in US policy on maritime claims in the South China Sea, the US Department of State says.

The two foreign ministers also discussed US support for Southeast Asian coastal states upholding their sovereign rights and interests consistent with international law, as well as opportunities for further maritime cooperation between the two countries.

"The two secretaries also discussed the strong economic, security, and people-to-people ties that bind our two countries," the statement read.

July 27, 2020 - 8:56am

The US Army and Marine Corps service members, in partnership with the Philippine Air Force, Army and Coast Guard, deliver an additional P11.4 million ($236,000) worth of personal protective equipment and medical supplies to hospitals in 11 cities in the Philippines.

The latest donation brings the total assistance of the US government to the Philippines' efforts against COVID-19 to P989 million (more than $20 million).

"This latest delivery of U.S. government assistance for Filipino frontliners in the battle against COVID-19 is a testament to our ongoing commitment to help the Philippines defeat the pandemic," US Ambassador Sung Kim says.

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