US vaccine donations help inoculate VFA from abrogation

US vaccine donations help inoculate VFA from abrogation
In this 2018 file photo, US and Filipino troops participate in an amphibious landing exercise simulating a beach assault during the annual Balikatan exercises held at San Antonio, Zambales.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV, File

MANILA, Philippines — COVID-19 vaccine donations from the United States played a crucial part in the decision to restore the Visiting Forces Agreement, President Rodrigo Duterte said.

Duterte had previously threatened to go through with scrapping the decades-old agreement without concessions from the US like vaccine deliveries or some form of payment.

“We did a 'give and take'. So we thank them, and I made a concession. I conceded the continuance of the Visiting Forces Agreement in gratitude,” Duterte said in a taped meeting that was aired Monday night.

The chief executive made the statement ahead of the delivery of three million Moderna vaccine doses—a donation from Washington—on Tuesday. Duterte is expected to welcome the arrival of the vaccine donation.  

Last month, the US delivered more than 3.2 million one-shot Johnson & Johnson jabs to the Philippines.

“I’d like to thank the president of the United States, [Joe] Biden, the government and the people of America for not forgetting us. Do not forget us because we share the same outlook in geopolitics, especially in Southeast Asia,” Duterte, who announced in 2016 a "separation" from the US and the Philippines' alignment with China and Russia in a "triumvirate… against the world", said.

RELATED: Beyond Bato's US visa: A look at issues previously raised against VFA

Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Duterte decided to restore the VFA, a pact governing the presence of US troops in the Philippines.

Duterte initially ordered the abrogation of the VFA in February 2020 after the US visa of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, former top cop and architect of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, was revoked. The termination, however, has been suspended three times since then.

Since March, the government has administered over 20 million COVID-19 doses. Of the total, 11.7 million were given as first doses, while 9.1 were second shots. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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