Duterte 'still thinking' about fate of VFA â Palace
In this Apr. 4, 2019 photo, U.S. Naval Special Warfare Operators and Australian Defense Force conduct marksmanship training with their Armed Forces of the Philippines counterparts during Exercise Balikatan 2019 (BK19). BK19 is an annual U.S., Philippine military training exercise demonstrating the commitment of the Philippines and the United States to our long-standing alliance by conduct maritime security operations which builds partner capacity and ensures interoperability.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Chan

Duterte 'still thinking' about fate of VFA — Palace

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - May 24, 2021 - 5:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to decide on the fate of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a military pact between the Philippines and the US that he previously said is up for renegotiation.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte, who has distanced himself from the US while seeking improved ties with China and Russia, is determining whether the deal would be advantageous to the Philippines if it faces problems because of the West Philippine Sea row.

"The president and I are really talking about these things. The latest statement that he relayed to me was he has no decision yet on the VFA. He is still thinking about it," Roque said at a press briefing on Monday.

"But of course, there's this issue that when things get worse, especially in the West Philippine Sea, he was thinking whether having the Visiting Forces Agreement would be helpful to our nation. So he has no decision yet... Only the President can make a decision whether we would have a new VFA or whether it would be scrapped. Let us wait for his decision," he added.

Roque was asked whether Duterte is inclined to extend the suspension of the termination of the VFA, which permits Filipino and American soldiers to hold joint military drills in the Philippines. Pressed whether Duterte would meet with officials or experts to help him decide on the matter, Roque said the president already knows the things he has to consider because he has been studying the VFA and ties between the Philippines and the US for a long time.

Last year, Duterte threatened to abrogate the 1998 military pact after the US had canceled the visa of senator Ronald dela Rosa, who was the police chief when the president waged his controversial war on illegal drugs. Malacañang has said the US Senate resolution accusing the Duterte administration of human rights violations, the demand of some American lawmakers to free detained opposition senator Leila de Lima, and the US travel ban against people who are behind her detention had also prompted Duterte to seek the termination of the VFA.

The president has deferred the abrogation of the agreement twice, suspending its termination in June and in November.

Last February, Duterte demanded that the US "pay" the Philippines if it wants to retain the VFA. He argued that the pact involves a "shared responsibility" and that everyone would "pay" if a war breaks out.

Earlier this month, Duterte announced that the VFA is "up for renegotiation." 

However, a senior foreign affairs official told OneNews that a recently concluded discussion between Filipino and American officials did not focus on renegotiating the pact.

A diplomat was also quoted by the news website as saying that the US is "prepared to leave the Philippines if President Duterte decides to kick the Americans out before August.” 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 30, 2021 - 10:46am

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

July 30, 2021 - 10:46am

The Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, which President Rodrigo Duterte decided in February 2020 would be scrapped, will no longer be abrogated, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says.

Lorenzana says Duterte decided to revoke the termination of the agreement after a meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday night. — Bella Perez-Rubio

June 14, 2021 - 7:40pm

President Rodrigo Duterte extends the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States for another six months, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says.

"The president conveyed to us his decision to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement by another six months while he studies and both sides further address his concerns regarding particular aspects for the agreement," Locsin says in a video posted on social media.

April 12, 2021 - 3:50pm

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military open the 36th Balikatan Exercise, which features military simulations made possible by the Visiting Forces Agreement.

The Balikatan comes after the termination of the VFA was suspended for a second six-month period and as tensions with China rise over its ships in the West Philippine Sea.



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

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