MANILA – Malacañang said on Friday that President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to recall the termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) on the grounds that the two countries respect their collaboration as “sovereign equals”.
The statement was delivered by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on the same day that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed Duterte’s decision to revoke the VFA following his meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III at Malacañang Palace in Manila on Thursday.
“PRRD’s (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) decision to recall the abrogation of VFA is based on upholding PH strategic core interests, the clear definition of PH-US alliance as one between sovereign equals, and clarity of US position on its obligations and commitments under MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty),” Roque said in a statement.
Roque was alluding to the 1951 MDT which aims to strengthen defense and security cooperation between US and Philippine soldiers.
In February 2020, Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA.
The controversial military contract was supposed to be terminated in August of last year, but it was postponed for three six-month intervals.
The recent came in June of this year, when Duterte decided to extend the validity of the VFA for another six months.
Lorenzana stated that the Philippines would continue to negotiate with the United States in order to reconsider the VFA.
The VFA, a defense agreement signed between Manila and Washington in 1998, permits American troops to enter the Philippines without a passport or visa in order to participate in joint military exercises in the host country.
The two countries are currently negotiating a “side agreement” that will act as an addendum to the VFA.
The Palace said that during a meeting at Malacañang, Duterte and Austin agreed that “enhanced communication and greater cooperation” can help strengthen Manila and Washington’s alliance.
Despite the recent development, Roque stated that the Philippines will continue to seek “partnerships that work based on our core national interests” with other countries.