President Duterte suspends VFA termination
DFA Secretary Locsin announced in his Twitter account the suspension of the “VFA termination.” The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was a 1998 agreement between Manila and Washington on American military personnel’s protocol in the countries.
VFA role critical to counterterrorism
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) holds around 300 joint activities with the US military every year.
It includes military training covering external defense, counterterrorism, humanitarian aid, and disaster response for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. US forces share intelligence reports as well, critical to counterterrorism.
Deterrent over China’s claim of WPS
Annually, the US navy makes friendly port calls in Manila and other parts of the Philippines to sign the two countries’ almost seven decades of the alliance.
These visits are essential deterrents and post a security threat for China, claiming the West Philippine Sea.
In January 2020, President Duterte threatened to scrap VFA. It was triggered when Senator Dela Rosa’s US VISA was canceled. Speculations that Senator “Bato” is involved in the extrajudicial killing during his term as PNP Chief.
Suspension of Termination to maintain Foreign Alliance
As of June 1, the pending termination of the Visiting Force Agreement (VFA) was suspended. The Philippines is still looking forward to continuing its established military ties with the United States.
Secretary Locsin of the Department of Foreign Affairs has formally announced it in the media.
“We look forward to continuing our strong military partnership with the United States even as we continue to reach out to our regional allies in building a common defense towards enduring stability and peace and continuing economic progress and prosperity in our part of the world,” he said.
I issued this diplomatic note to the US ambassador. It has been received by Washington and well at that. The Note is self-explanatory and does not require comment except from me. The abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement has been suspended upon the President’s instruction. pic.twitter.com/BXqzyNpOty— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) June 2, 2020
No reason given for the retraction
He also mentioned that in the vast and swiftly changing circumstances of the world, a world leader must be quick-witted for the nation’s security and peace, especially in the time of a pandemic.
However, Locsin did not mention why President Duterte decided to halt the suspension of VFA. He only leaves it as a cliffhanger to everyone and has the freedom to speculate about what is clear and true on its face.
Netizens saw the initial decision of President Duterte to cancel the VFA as very much pro-China. Since 2018, his friendship with China and what seems to be Chinese propaganda promoting “The Philippines, province of China,” has become an alarming trend.
VFA 2021 Extension
In November, US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has requested a longer suspension to allow further negotiations for a more acceptable security arrangement.
Locsin said, “my President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, has instructed me to convey… to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement by yet another 6 months, to enable us to find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement on how to move forward in our mutual defense.”