The abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States has been suspended upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Tuesday night.
Locsin posted on Twitter a diplomatic note dated June 1 to the US Embassy in Manila and said Washington has received it “well at that.”
“The suspension shall start on even date and shall continue for six months, which period is extendible by the Philippines for six months, after which the tolling of the initial period in Note Verbale No. 20-0463 dated 11 February shall resume,” the latest diplomatic note read.
The Department of Foreign Affairs suspended the termination “in light of political and other developments in the region.”
“The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Embassy of the United States of America the assurances of its highest consideration,” it further read.
The suspension comes as the world battles the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic for months.
In a separate statement, the US Embassy in Manila welcomed the government’s decision, citing the partnership between the US and the Philippines.
“Our long-standing alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines,” it read.
The VFA, established in 1999, provides a framework for defense forces cooperation that allows joint exercises between the Philippines and the US.
Duterte initially threatened to terminate the accord after Washington revoked the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the former Philippine National Police chief who implemented the administration’s crackdown against illegal drugs.
The campaign against illegal narcotics had been criticized by the US, with some American lawmakers introducing a Senate resolution castigating the Duterte administration for the deaths related to the program.
On February 11, Manila officially sent the notice of VFA termination to the US embassy in Manila.
Source: Philippines News Agency