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VFA extended for six months

The Philippine government has decided to extend for another six months the suspension of abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States amid persisting tensions in the South China Sea, the country’s top diplomat said Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to extend the suspension of the PH-US VFA would allow both sides “to find a more enhanced,  mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement  on how to move forward  in our  mutual defense.”

“The past four years have changed the South China Sea from one of uncertainty about great powers’ intentions to one of predictability and resulting stability with regard to what can and cannot be done, what will and will not be acceptable with regard to the conduct of any protagonist in the South China Sea. Clarity and strength have never posed a risk. It is confusion and indecision that aggravate risk,” Locsin said in a statement addressed to White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

“A great deal of credit for the renewal of stability and security goes to deft diplomacy, unequivocal expressions of policy, sturdy postures of strength combined with unfailing tact, and pragmatic national security advice exhibited by both our governments in the same period,” Locsin added.

The visiting forces agreement governs the treatment of US servicemen and defense personnel who are in Philippine territory for short periods during joint military exercises approved by both the Philippine and US governments.

The VFA became effective on May 27, 1999, eight years after the closure of US military bases in the Philippines in 1991.

The military accord was negotiated and signed during the time of President Fidel V. Ramos and ratified during the administration of President Joseph Estrada.

Duterte ordered the abrogation of the VFA after the US, a long-time Philippine defense and treaty ally, canceled the visa of his close aide and former national police chief now senator, Ronald Dela Rosa.

US officials did not cite a specific reason why Dela Rosa’s visa was cancelled, but many speculated it was due to his involvement in Duterte’s violent war on drugs.

The Philippines notified the US of the official termination of the VFA to the US on Feb. 11, 2020. Nearly three months later, the Department of Foreign Affairs on June 1 sent a diplomatic note to the US Embassy in Manila informing them of Duterte’s decision to put the termination on hold, citing “political and other developments in the region.”

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Visiting Forces Agreement , Teodoro Locsin , VFA , United States , South China Sea
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