President Duterte is still undecided on whether or not he will terminate the country’s visiting forces agreement (VFA) with the United States, Malacañang said Tuesday.
According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the President has no final decision yet on the VFA so he kept the suspension of the military pact’s termination for six more months.
The military accord between the Philippines and the United States, which took effect in 1999, governs the guidelines and legal status of visiting American troops in the country. The planned termination was first announced by the President in 2020 but was suspended after the pandemic struck.
“Ang naging desisyon po ni Presidente, palawagin pa iyong pag-terminate niya sa VFA. Bakit po siya nag-decide? Kasi hindi pa siya maka-decide sa ngayon kung talagang gusto na niyang i-terminate ang VFA (The President’s decision is to suspend the VFA termination. Why did he make that decision? Because he has not decided yet if he really wants to terminate the VFA),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Tuesday, June 15.
“At mas mabuti for the time being na hayaan munang umiral pa ang VFA hanggang wala pa siyang pinal na desisyon (It was better for the time being to let the VFA prevail until he has no final decision on the matter),” he added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier announced that the President extended the suspension of the VFA abrogation by another six months. The six-month extension, he said, would provide the President time to study as well as both sides to further address his “concerns” about certain aspects of the VFA.
In a recent public address, the President asked the United States to explain its supposed inaction during the Panatag Shoal standoff between the Philippines and China in 2012. When Manila pulled out its ships from the area as part of a supposed US-brokered deal to end the impasse, Duterte was puzzled why America did not take action when China stayed put.
Earlier, he told the United States to “pay” if it wanted to keep the VFA with the Philippines.
The President had wanted to scrap the military pact over alleged unequal provisions and US meddling but agreed to defer the termination for a year amid global challenges such as the pandemic.