PHILIPPINES has announced the reversal of a previous decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. pointed out without elaborating that the government moved to suspend the termination of the VFA “in light of the political and other developments in the region.”
The suspension, which came into force on 1 June, will continue for six months and could be extended for another half a year, according to the official.
Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part said that the decision was most likely made due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think the reason I was told is because of this current pandemic plus we need the cooperation from other countries. We need to cooperate with other countries to fight the pandemic. I think the President Rodrigo Duterte thought that it’s untimely to end the VFA at this moment, at this time”, Lorenzana underlined.
He expressed hope that the next few months would see additional assistance coming from the US, especially in terms of coronavirus fight-related issues.
“In six months, this is only my guess; the assistance of the US will increase, to fight the pandemic. They already gave us some help, assistance recently, especially in the providing equipment in our quarantine facilities”, the Foreign Secretary said.
The move comes amid the ongoing regional tensions over the South China Sea territories claimed by an array of countries, including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Despite having no claims to the territories, the US is also actively engaged in the dispute, sending its military vessels to the South China Sea and sparking harsh criticism from Beijing which calls such acts “provocations.”