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Gov’t suspends abrogation of Visiting Forces Agreement with U.S.


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Defense chief cites COVID-19 pandemic, need for international cooperation in PH decision to suspend VFA termination

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 3)— The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the deciding factors in the Philippine government's decision to suspend the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.

"I think the reason I was told is because of this current pandemic plus we need the cooperation from other countries. We need to cooperate with other countries to fight the pandemic," Lorenzana told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"I think the President thought that it’s untimely to end the VFA at this moment, at this time," he added, citing a brief conversation he had with President Rodrigo Duterte a month ago.

The Foreign Affairs Department on Tuesday announced it has suspended the pending termination of the two-decade military pact with the United States, saying the move was done "in light of the political and other developments in the region."

The suspension, effective on June 1, shall continue for six months and could extend for another half a year, according to the diplomatic note shared by DFA Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr. on social media.



The Defense chief said his agency supports the decision of the President, noting how the continued military activities and ties with the US can help in the Philippines' own fight against the global health crisis.

With the recent development, Lorenzana said he sees "more assistance" coming from the US, particularly in relation to the country's COVID-19 response.

"In the six months, this is only my guess, the assistance of the US will increase, to fight the pandemic. They already gave us some help, assistance recently, especially in the providing equipment in our quarantine facilities," Lorenzana said.

The United States government has provided over $15 million worth of health and humanitarian assistance to aid the Philippines' response against COVID-19, the US Embassy said. In May, members of the US military delivered ₱10-million worth of personal protective equipment and medical supplies to hospitals in several provinces around the country.

The VFA is the first of two agreements between Washington and Manila about the treatment of their troops when they are in the US or the Philippines. Inked in 1998, the deal includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops, and rights of the US government to retain jurisdiction over military personnel, among others.

In February, the Philippines sent its formal notice to the US that it was terminating the military pact. The VFA was supposed to be scrapped on August 9 – or 180 days from the US' receipt of the notice.

EXPLAINER: The Visiting Forces Agreement

Lorenzana, for his part, said he is not "privy" to the note verbale, and what the scenario would be for both countries after the six-month timeline of the suspension order.

Former Senator Kit Tatad, one of the sponsors of the VFA resolution in the 11th Congress, however said one can interpret the move as the country formally withdrawing its previous notice for the VFA termination.

"That notice was served on Feb 11, 2020 and was supposed to take effect six months later. The withdrawal restores the VFA to its original status as an implementing agreement of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty," Tatad said in a message to CNN Philippines.

Ties to continue

With the suspension, Lorenzana said the Philippine Armed Forces will then continue on with the usual activities it has with the American counterparts, including the Balikatan exercises.

The United States government also welcomed the Philippines' decision to suspend the agreement's abrogation, saying in a statement released by its embassy that it looks forward "to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines." DFA said the Philippines is also looking forward to forging a "strong military partnership with the United States."

Lawmakers likewise welcomed the development, saying the implementation of the VFA will "serve the interest" of the country given the global health situation as well as ongoing tensions in territorial waters.

"The abrupt abrogation of the VFA last February as initiated by the President - which was done amid the increasing aggressiveness and the bullying of China - is disadvantageous to us. What the country truly needs is a stable foreign policy that promotes our interest," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a statement.

The sentiment was echoed by Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who said that the country needs the military pact "especially now that Chinese intrusions into our territory particularly in the West Philippine Sea have become commonplace."

Senator Sonny Angara, on the other hand, said the decision was a "safer, more cautious" one to make given the current health situation and developments around the world.




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The Chinese Honeymoon is Over... thankfully.   Wake up Philippines and Wake up World.   The US State department  shouldn't let  the RP off so easily.     Resumption of the agreement should go forward rewritten and highly favourable to the US... and along with a  big plate of crow served to Digong. 

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Duterte still wants VFA terminated, says Palace

President Rodrigo Duterte has not changed his decision to end the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States even after he suspended its implementation for six months, Malacañang said Thursday.

“Ang nangyari lang po, nasuspinde ang termination. Hindi pa po niya sinasabi na hindi na tuloy ang termination, so wala pong nagbago sa pag-iisip ng ating Pangulo,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised briefing.

Duterte’s foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on June 1 sent a diplomatic note to the US Embassy in Manila to inform them of the President’s decision to put the termination on hold for six months – a move welcomed by Washington, the Philippine defense department and some Filipino legislators.

Manila’s Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said on Wednesday that the country's decision to temporarily suspend the termination had been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and developments in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippines said the suspension can be extended for another six months, “after which the tolling of the initial period in Note Verbale No. 20-0463 dated 11 February 2020 shall resume."

The Philippines officially notified the US government of its intention to abrogate the VFA, which governs the conduct of visiting US personnel holding military exercises in the Philippines, on February 11. The termination will take effect after 180 days.

Duterte had sought the termination of the VFA after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, his close ally, reportedly over the former national police chief’s involvement in the controversial war on drugs




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When Mr. Duterte is feeling strong he calls our president the son of a prostitute.  When he needs help he has the "honor" of extending the VFA for 6 months at a time.  Are abrogate & abrogation words normally used in the Philippines, I had to look it up in the dictionary?

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Duterte undecided on whether to end VFA, says Palace


PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo R. Duterte had not decided whether to keep a military pact with the US on the deployment of troops for war games, according to the presidential palace.

The President was still thinking whether the country’s visiting forces agreement with the US would help in case the country’s maritime dispute with China escalates, his spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Monday.

“He’s still thinking,” he said in Filipino. “Only the President can decide whether there would be a new VFA or whether it would get dumped.”

Mr. Roque commented on the issue amid reports that the Philippines and US had concluded discussions on their bilateral relations.

He said Mr. Duterte had been studying the military pact for a long time.

“The crafting of foreign policy is clearly not the sole purview of the President,” lawyer and Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center research fellow Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

He noted that under the 1987 Constitution “the state shall pursue an independent foreign policy.” “The President is certainly not the Philippine state.”

While the President plays a role in crafting the country’s foreign policy, the process must still involve experts and professionals “because relations with other states must be anchored on international law and diplomatic protocols,” Mr. Yusingco said.

He noted that the country’s foreign policy direction must not be “founded on the personal relationship or dealings of heads of states.”

Mr. Duterte earlier said his government had veered away from a pro-Western foreign policy direction to protect the country’s national interest.

He said the VFA was “up for renegotiation and that power belongs to the President.” 

“The fate of the VFA cannot be determined by the personal feelings or views of the President,” Mr. Yusingco said. “And neither should it be articulated as merely pro-US or anti-China. It should not even be about siding with western or eastern powers.”

The President last year said he was ending the VFA after the US Embassy canceled the visa of Senator Ronaldo O. Dela Rosa, his former police chief who led his deadly war on drugs.

Philippine authorities also said the President was dismayed by Washington’s condemnation of human rights violations in the country and the calls of American parliamentarians to release opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima from prison.

In February, the tough-talking leader said the US should pay the Philippines if it wants to maintain the military pact.

The termination period has been twice extended. The Philippines said the suspension would give it a chance to bat for fairer terms.

“Given the ongoing troubles in the West Philippine Sea, it is hard to imagine a decision to finally abrogate the VFA,” Mr. Yusingco said, referring to parts of the waterway within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Meanwhile, Mr. Roque said the President no longer sees the urgency to discuss the South China Sea dispute with ex-Presidents because he was convinced that his foreign policy is “correct and working.” Mr. Duterte planned to seek advice from past Presidents instead of convening the National Security Council (NSC).

Mr. Duterte considered the option before he met with former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who advised him last week to stay friendly with China, Mr. Roque said. 



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