The visiting forces agreement that the President of the Philippines plans to cancel is a key part of the relationship between the two countries.
The defense ministers of the two countries announced on Friday that President Rodrigo Duterte had reinstated an agreement on the presence of US troops in the Philippines, withdrawing a decision that has attracted increasing attention from policymakers in Washington and Manila.
Visiting Force Agreement (VFA) Rules for the rotation of thousands of U.S. troops entering and leaving the Philippines to conduct war exercises and exercises. As the United States and its allies fight against increasingly tough China, especially in the disputed South China Sea, it becomes more important.
“Let me thank President Duterte for his decision to fully reinstate the visiting forces agreement,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at a joint press conference with Philippine Secretary of Defense Del Fen Lorenza on Friday.
He said Duterte’s decision provided the United States with “a certain degree of certainty” and pointed to the United States’ role in “counter-insurgency efforts” in southern Mindanao.
“We can plan further in advance, and through long-term planning, we can actually conduct more comprehensive exercises.”
Duterte said last year that he planned to cancel the VFA but extend it to December.
Lorenzana said he was not sure why Duterte changed his mind But the decision was made after meeting with Austin in Manila on Thursday night.
“Our country is facing a series of challenges, from the climate crisis to the pandemic,” he said, adding that the Philippine-US alliance “remains vital to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
“The fully restored VFA will help us achieve this goal together.
In a statement on Friday, Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Rock stated that the president’s decision was “based on safeguarding the strategic core interests of the Philippines”.
“However, the Philippines will continue to establish effective partnerships with other countries based on our core national interests.”
U.S. treaty ally
Another statement from Duterte’s office stated that the President of the Philippines and Austin “have had an open and frank discussion on the current status and future direction of the Philippine-US relationship.”
The statement added: “They agreed that the alliance can be further strengthened by strengthening communication and strengthening cooperation.”
Since taking office as president in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly expressed his contempt for the United States and hinted at a closer relationship with China.
The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States, and some military agreements rely on the VFA.
Duterte promised to terminate the agreement after the United States refused to issue visas to the Philippine senator, who was an ally of the president. But he has repeatedly postponed the expiration date, most recently in June.
For the United States, the ability to rotate its military is important not only for the defense of the Philippines, but also for countering China’s tough behavior in the region.
The Philippines and China have long-standing tensions in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, as well as the repeated influx of Chinese militia ships in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
The United States again issued a warning to China this month that an attack on the Philippine army in the South China Sea would trigger the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
The United States has also sent at least 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines to help fight the epidemic.
Duterte’s office stated that “the President is grateful for the assistance provided by the United States in the country’s fight against the epidemic”.
In addition to Duterte and Lorenzana, Austin is also expected to meet with Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Teodoro Locsin Jr.).
Manila is the third and final stop of Austin’s Asia tour. The United States seeks Strengthen security relations with Southeast Asian countries Many of them also claim sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea. He also visited Singapore and Vietnam.
Additional reporting by Ted Regencia