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VFA termination still on hold as Duterte ‘studies’ defense pact

VFA termination still on hold as Duterte 'studies' defense pact

MANILA, Philippines — The suspension of the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States as President Rodrigo Duterte “studies” the defense pact with the country’s longtime ally and former colonizer.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday night announced that the president has decided to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA for another six months.

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“The president conveyed to us his decision to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement by another six months while he studies and both sides further address his concerns regarding particular aspects for the agreement,” Locsin said in a video posted on social media. 

SFA @teddyboylocsin announces President Duterte’s decision to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by another six months. #DFAForgingAhead#VisitingForcesAgreementpic.twitter.com/tdqlcZ5lzt

— DFA Philippines (@DFAPHL) June 14, 2021

DFA executive director for strategic communications Ivy Banzon-Abalos said they are still waiting for guidance from Malacañang on the particular concerns that Duterte would like to look more closely into.

The president 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 Ronald dela Rosa, former top cop and architect of the administration’s so-called war on drugs, was revoked.

On June last year, Locsin tweeted that the termination of the agreement will be on hold for six months upon the instruction of Duterte.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana then said Duterte’s decision to halt the abrogation of the VFA was due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We need to cooperate with other countries to fight the pandemic and I think the president (Duterte) thought that it’s untimely to end the VFA at this moment,” Lorenzana said told CNN Philippines in June.

In November 2020, Duterte ordered another six-month extension “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.”

In a June 1, 2020 diplomatic note to the US, Locsin indicated that “shall start on even date and shall continue for six months, which period is extendable by the Philippines for another six months.”

This would be the third time that the Philippines asked for six months to put the termination of the VFA on hold.

Asked when the official end of the suspension will be, the DFA said they have to “check with our American Affairs office first on what the official reckoning date will be, usually it is from the time the other party has been officially notified.”

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 14, 2021 – 7:40pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which will expire 180 days after the notice of termination is sent to the US.

That notice was sent on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, according to Philippine government officials.

Duterte had previously warned the United States that he will terminate the VFA if the cancellation of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa’s US visa—believed but not confirmed to have been over the continued detention of Sen. Leila De Lima and the government’s “war on drugs”—is not “corrected”.

The decision to terminate comes amid a resolution by the Senate recognizing the president’s authority to terminate agreements and treaties but also asking him to hold off on the decision while lawmakers conduct a review of the VFA and other agreements with America.

Activist groups have been calling on the government to scrap the deal since 1999, saying the Visiting Forces Agreement favors the US, keeps the Philippine military dependent on assistance and aid, and puts the Philippines at risk from America’s enemies.

Main photo: In this May 19, 2018 file photo, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat and US Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley lead the ceremonial furling of the Balikatan flag during the closing ceremony of the Philippine-US military exercises. The STAR/Boy Santos

June 14, 2021 – 7:40pm

President Rodrigo Duterte extends the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States for another six months, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says.

“The president conveyed to us his decision to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement by another six months while he studies and both sides further address his concerns regarding particular aspects for the agreement,” Locsin says in a video posted on social media.

SFA @teddyboylocsin announces President Duterte’s decision to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by another six months. #DFAForgingAhead#VisitingForcesAgreementpic.twitter.com/tdqlcZ5lzt

— DFA Philippines (@DFAPHL) June 14, 2021

April 12, 2021 – 3:50pm

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military open the 36th Balikatan Exercise, which features military simulations made possible by the Visiting Forces Agreement.

The Balikatan comes after the termination of the VFA was suspended for a second six-month period and as tensions with China rise over its ships in the West Philippine Sea.

February 16, 2021 – 10:43am

Sen. Panfilo Lacson reminds President Rodrigo Duterte that under the Constitution, a senator also has something to do with international agreements.

The president earlier told Lacson that he has nothing to do with the issue of the Visiting Forces agreement between the Philippines and the United States.

“Even an ordinary citizen of this country who feels embarrassed by his harsh, undiplomatic remarks concerning an existing bilateral agreement is guaranteed under the same Constitution to express his views. Not anyone, even he as President can curtail that basic right,” Lacson says.

December 9, 2020 – 12:39pm

The US defense department has boostedthe Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counter-terrorism capability with new equipment, the US Embassy in Manila says.

The capability upgrade is among the P1.4-billion ($29.3 million) in defense articles recently transferred to the AFP, Acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller tells senior Philippine military officials as he met with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Tuesday in Manila.

In a statement provided by the US Embassy, Miller stresses the importance of the US-Philippine alliance to national and regional security.

Miller says the defense articles that were turned over last December 2 were transferred to several special mission units of the AFP to support its modernization goals.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) lauded the capability, especially the anti-Improvised Explosive Device equipment, which will form part of force protection noting that in the recent campaign troops have engaged terrorists rigging IEDs in its attacks. — The STAR/Roel Pareño

November 12, 2020 – 11:51am

“We welcome the Government of the Philippines’ November 11 decision to suspend termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for another six months,” the US Embassy says in a statement to mdia.

“The U.S.-Philippines alliance remains vital to our robust, deep-rooted bilateral relationship. The United States will continue to partner closely with the Philippines to strengthen our mutual security ties.”

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