'Give and take': VFA retention a 'concession' after US vaccine donation, Duterte admits

Published August 3, 2021, 6:29 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The defense alliance between the Philippines and the United States has apparently been saved following America’s donation of coronavirus vaccines to Filipinos.

President Rodrigo Duterte thanks the United States for donating COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines during a public address on August 2, 2021. (Malacañang)

President Duterte admitted Monday, August 2, that his decision to keep the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States was a “concession” out of gratitude for the western ally’s vaccines donated to the Philippines.

Duterte made the admission ahead of the delivery of another batch of US donated vaccines to the Philippines on Tuesday, August 3. He is expected to welcome the arrival of the US-donated Moderna jabs at the Manila airport.

“I’m going to go to the airport because the United States donated 3 million — the Moderna. Kaya ano give and take lang tayo (We did a give and take)” the President said during a televised address Monday night.

“So pasalamat tayo sa kanila at maibigay naman na — may naibigay na naman ako sa kanila na concession (So let’s thank them and I gave them something in concession). I consider the continuance of — to the — continuance of the Visiting Forces Agreement n gratitude,” he added.

READ: Duterte keeps VFA after getting ‘clarity’ on US commitment to defense treaty

The President has rescinded an earlier decision to scrap the VFA after a meeting with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III in Malacañang last week.

The VFA, signed between Manila and Washington in 1998, spells out the guidelines and legal status of US troops when visiting the Philippines. Duterte earlier wanted to terminate the defense pact over concerns about its unequal provisions, and demanded the US to “pay” if it wanted to keep the VFA.

The Palace explained that the President’s decision to keep the VFA was reached after getting the US commitment to regard the Philippines as a “sovereign equal” and reaffirm its obligation under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). The defense pact obligates the two countries to come to each other’s aid in case of external armed attack.

“PRRD’s decision to recall the abrogation of VFA is based on upholding PH strategic core interests, the clear definition of PH-US alliance as one between sovereign equals, and clarity of US position on its obligations and commitments under MDT,” Presidential spokesman Roque said in a statement Friday, July 30.

READ: Duterte thanks United States for donating COVID-19 vaccines to PH

READ: US seeks strong ties with PH as ‘equal sovereign partner,’ Pentagon chief tells Duterte

Prior to Austin’s visit to Manila, the Philippines received more than 3 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the United States last month through the COVAX facility. Additional 3 million doses of Moderna vaccines will be delivered by the United States on Tuesday.

Duterte, in his remarks Monday, thanked US President Joe Biden for “not forgetting” the Philippines in its vaccine donation.