Tue, 28 Sep 2021

Philippines cancels termination of VFA with U.S.

30 Jul 2021, 17:30 GMT+10

MANILA, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to recall his order to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday.

Lorenzana said Duterte conveyed the Philippines' decision to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after their meeting on Thursday night at the presidential palace in Manila.

"Last night, the president decided to recall or retract the termination letter for the VFA. So, the VFA is in full force again. There is no termination letter pending," Lorenzana said in a joint press conference with Austin, adding Manila and Washington are "back on track."

Austin, who arrived in the Philippines on Thursday, thanked Duterte, saying the VFA restoration provides the two allies "some degree of certainty going forward."

"We can plan further in advance, and with that long-range planning, we can actually do more comprehensive exercises," Austin said.

The Philippines is the last leg of Austin's Southeast Asian trip to hold high-level discussions on security issues.

Duterte threatened to terminate the VFA in January 2020 after Washington canceled the entry visa of Duterte's longtime aide over his role in the war on drugs during his tenure as the Philippines' National Police chief.

On Duterte's order, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs served an official notice of termination of the VFA last February. However, the Philippines has suspended its termination three times.

In 1998, Manila and Washington signed a VFA that governs the conduct of U.S. military personnel who come to the Philippines to participate in approved training and other activities.

The Philippine Senate ratified the agreement in 1999, seven years after the closure of the last U.S. base on Philippine territory.

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