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US to help modernize Philippines military despite uncertain VFA
“We have a list provided to us by the Pentagon. We compared it to the list they sent to (Defense) Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana and it seems to have satisfied our demands,” Romualdez said at the Laging Handa briefing.
Michael Varcas, file

US to help modernize Philippines military despite uncertain VFA

Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Despite uncertainties about the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the US government remains committed to help the Philippines modernize its armed forces, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said yesterday.

“We have a list provided to us by the Pentagon. We compared it to the list they sent to (Defense) Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana and it seems to have satisfied our demands,” Romualdez said at the Laging Handa briefing.

“It seems to be complete and more weapons or whatever hardware that we need from the United States will arrive in the country,” he added.

President Duterte unilaterally terminated the VFA between the Philippines and the US last year. The VFA allows Philippine and US troops to hold joint exercises in the country.

The termination, however, was suspended in June last year for six months, and extended for another six months in November.

“So hopefully, because it’s already with Secretary Lorenzana, that would probably satisfy the President’s concern regarding the modernization of our Armed Forces,” Romualdez said.

He said the country is also expected to receive 10 more Black Hawk helicopters from the US within the year.

“They provide Secretary Lorenza a long list, which is technically what we programmed for the past five years, since 2016 actually,” the envoy said.

Romualdez said the US and the Philippines discussed the VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) at the recent bilateral strategic dialogue.

“The bilateral strategic dialogue is done every year, and of course this year it was in a virtual meeting,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a phone conversation with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. last month, stressed the importance of the MDT for the security of the two nations. The MDT states that each country would come to the defense of the other in case of an attack by a foreign state.

Blinken pledged “to stand with Southeast Asian claimants in the face of China pressure” in the South China Sea.

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