US awaits Duterte's decision on VFA extension

Published June 4, 2021, 2:55 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The United States is just awaiting the decision of President Duterte regarding the fate of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), US Embassy Charge d’Affaires John Law said Friday.

(via United States Embassy in Manila website)

Law said both the US and Philippine sides spent weeks of “productive and very good conversations” aimed to close the gap over certain provisions of the agreement.

“There have been specific proposals related to how we can clarify and strengthen the implementation of the VFA. As the Ambassador (Jose Romualdez) mentioned, (VFA) is currently awaiting the decision of President Duterte. So the status is we are awaiting the Philippine government’s decision,” Law said during the virtual media briefing on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States.

Law agreed with the statement of Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez about the importance of the VFA to the success of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and to the security alliance between the two countries. “

“We agree with Amb. Romualdez. We think the VFA is a fundamental part of helping make the MDT successful. We are committed to the success of our alliance with the Philippines and that commitment is going to remain strong,” the US Embassy official said.

In the same briefing, Romualdez said the VFA provides the MDT “a little more teeth” even as he expressed confidence that Duterte will approve the continuance of the agreement.

Signed in 1998, the VFA provides simplified access procedures to the Philippines for US servicemen as well as mechanisms to resolve issues arising from the presence of these American forces on Philippine soil.

In one of his televised late-night talks last month, Duterte admitted that he would like to carefully study the VFA following the ongoing negotiations between the two sides.

“So I would like to just study very carefully the advent or with the coming of the renegotiation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Something has got to give,” he said.

In February Last year, the President announced that he is abrogating the VFA in apparent retaliation to the cancellation of the US visa of his political ally Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, one of the major personalities in the bloody war-on-drugs campaign of the Duterte administration.

Duterte, however, deferred the VFA termination twice, with the duration of only up to the end of this month.

Last February, Duterte demanded that America should “pay” the Philippines if it wants to keep the VFA, arguing that the presence of US facilities would make the country vulnerable in the event a geopolitical conflict involving the US erupts.