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Solon hails extension of VFA end suspension

THE administration’s decision to extend the suspension of the Visiting Forces Agreement’s (VFA) abrogation was “sound and strategic.”

This is according to Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon saying it has something to do with the outcome of the United States elections.

“I think it is a good move for the government to extend the suspension to give time for the new US administration to settle in and possibly pursue talks with the Philippines on issues concerning the VFA,” Biazon said.

“The impending change in administration in the US offers the Philippines an opportunity to engage the new administration and discuss concerns pertaining to the PH-US relationship and come to a refresh or reboot of security arrangements in the Region,” he added.

The solon stressed that the official reason for the extension of the suspension of the termination of the VFA shows the United States that the Philippines is not abandoning its long-standing strategic alliance.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the suspension of the termination of the VFA was extended “to find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement.”

Biazon pointed out that this shows the Philippines is serious in coming up with an agreement which is strong in upholding peace and order in the areas around the West Philippine Sea (WPS) but sensitive to the interests of both countries and consistent with mutuality.

The lawmaker further explained that the Philippines lies smack in the middle of the area covered by the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) Strategy of the United States, giving it a strategic value to the US, which in turn makes a defense and security agreement between the two countries desirable.

“I don’t see the US changing FOIP Strategy even with a change in administration. It is a national defense and national security issue to them, which usually remains geared towards a specific strategic direction regardless of the party in power,” Biazon said.

“The US would like to ensure that Freedom of Navigation remains in the international waters and sea lanes crossing from the Indian Ocean through the WPS to the Pacific Ocean,” he also said.

The Muntinlupa lawmaker pointed out that President-elect Joe Biden mentioned his desire to reinforce and strengthen alliances with Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea to maintain a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region when he took in separate congratulatory calls from the leaders of the three nations.

Biazon previously reminded the government of the impending expiration of the suspension of the VFA’s termination and urged officials to make a decision whether or not to extend the suspension or even rescind the termination notice itself.

He subsequently pushed for the extension of the suspension, saying doing so would give the Philippines “elbow room” for a possible renegotiation depending on the outcome of the US presidential elections.