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Reinstated VFA restores balance of power in AsPac – Locsin

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Reinstated VFA restores balance of power in AsPac � Locsin
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., during his intervention at the post-ministerial conference session of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with the US last Wednesday, also expressed gratitude to the country’s long-time ally for clearly reaffirming its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.
DFA / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The decision of the Duterte administration to reinstate an improved Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States restores the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

Locsin, during his intervention at the post-ministerial conference session of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with the US last Wednesday, also expressed gratitude to the country’s long-time ally for clearly reaffirming its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

“The alliance is vital to maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific region. All the protagonists in the region, without a single exception I can assure everyone, see a strong US presence as imperative to peace and stability in Southeast Asia,” he said.

“We have restored that balance by reinstating an improved Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States,” he added.

President Duterte last week recalled his earlier decision to terminate the VFA during the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III.

A “side agreement” between the two countries is reportedly under review by Malacañang.

In his intervention, Locsin welcomed the open support of the US for the 2016 award on the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China.

“We took notice when the US urged the cessation of provocative actions certain to provoke reactions by maritime militia in the South China Sea and renounced the excessive reach of China’s necessarily municipal Coast Guard Law,” he said.

“Such declarations reinforce the rules-based order and benefit all that use the vital artery that is the South China Sea,” the secretary added.

Stressing that the arbitral award is the Philippines’ contribution to strengthening the legal order of the seas, Locsin said it must be seen as beneficial to all countries.

“It singles out no one; was carefully crafted to be unusable as a weapon for disputation and is most helpful in clarifying maritime issues. Only a bad conscience should feel aggrieved by it,” he added.

Locsin also expressed gratitude to Australia for supporting the award during a separate conference session also on Wednesday.

“Australia is one of ASEAN’s strongest defense and security partners, particularly in the area of maritime cooperation. We appreciate Australia’s support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and maintaining ASEAN Centrality in the evolving regional architecture,” he said.

“The Philippines and Australia have a mutual interest in maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight, the exercise of self-restraint and the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea, in accordance with international law, particularly UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” added Locsin.

During the ASEAN session with Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi last Tuesday, Locsin stressed that a peaceful South China Sea is essential to its protection and sustainable management.

“Disputes in it should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and in the recent light of the 2016 Arbitral Award,” he said.

“Partnership on the blue economy should be explored seriously and sincerely. For a change,” he added, referring to ensuring the sustainable management of oceans and maritime resources in the region.

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