THE Philippines extended for another six months the suspension of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced yesterday.
In a statement, Locsin said he was instructed by President Rodrigo Duterte to formally inform the US government about the extension while finding a “lasting arrangement on how to move forward in our mutual defense.”
In a diplomatic note addressed to White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Locsin said that the situation in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) have changed in the past four years “from one of uncertainty about great powers’ intentions to one of predictability and resulting stability with regard to what can and cannot be done, what will and will not be acceptable with regard to the conduct of any protagonist in SCS.”
“In appreciative recognition thereof, my President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, has instructed me to convey with the appropriate formality his decision to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement by yet another 6 months, 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,” the statement reads.
The secretary noted a “great deal of credit for the renewal of stability and security goes to deft diplomacy, unequivocal expressions of policy, sturdy postures of strength combined with unfailing tact, and pragmatic national security advice exhibited by both our governments in the same period.”
The first suspension for the VFA abrogation was sent on June 1, four months after the Philippines sent a notice of VFA termination on February 11 to the US Embassy in Manila in retaliation over Washington’s decision to revoke the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief who lead the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
The DFA cited the “political and other developments in the region” in arriving at the decision.
Established in 1998, the VFA provides a framework for defense forces cooperation that allows joint exercises between the Philippines and the US and provides procedures on how to resolve issues that may arise as a result of the US forces presence in the Philippines.