By Aaron Recuenco
The Philippine military wants to maximize the remaining days it has with their American counterparts by pushing through with all the military engagements with the United States in the next six months, a top government official said Thursday.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said those engagements are within the 180-day period before the VFA is finally abrogated. The count started the day after the United States received the copy of the notification of cancellation of the agreement.
“With the formal serving of the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, this year’s planned military exercises with the Americans shall proceed as scheduled within the 180 days that the VFA remains in force,” Lorenzana said in a statement issued on Thursday.
There are more than 300 military engagements between the United States and the Philippine militaries this year, including training programs, lectures, military exercises, and others.
The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), served the notice of the VFA cancellation on Tuesday.
Read more: PH serves VFA termination notice to US
While the Philippine military is willing to take advantage of the remaining days, Lorenzana said that it will still depend on the decision of the United States.
“Our American counterparts may opt to discontinue the scheduled exercises before the 180 days are up,” Lorenzana said.
President Duterte earlier warned that he will cancel the VFA if the United States will not restore the entry visa of his staunch ally, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.
Dela Rosa’s visa was cancelled due to the implementation of the Global Magnitsky Act in the United States which runs after those who do not respect human rights.
Dela Rosa is the key implementor of Duterte’s brutal drug war that left thousands of drug personalities, including civilians and children, described as drug war collateral damage.
With the VFA cancellation now approved by the Philippine government, regular visits, training programs, and military exercises will also be cancelled.
“Once the termination is final, we will cease to have exercises with them,” Lorenzana said.