Philippines President Won’t Scrap Military Pact with US Despite Prior Threats
By Staff, Agencies
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to retain a long-standing deal to keep US forces in the country after repeatedly vowing to end it, his defense minister said after meeting with American war secretary, Lloyd Austin.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the move on Friday, saying Duterte wouldn’t jettison the Visiting Forces Agreement [VFA] with Washington, but added that he was unsure why the president had reversed his course.
“The VFA is in full force again after Secretary Austin’s meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte,” Lorenzana told reporters.
Speaking at Friday’s press conference, Austin said the decision “provides certainty” for Washington going forward, and would permit better “long-range planning,” including for “different types of exercises.”
Effective since 1999, the pact lays out rules for the rotation of thousands of American troops stationed in the Philippines, as well as for regular military exercises and wargames held there. Washington has come to see the VFA as more significant as it increasingly turns its sights on Beijing, with the Pentagon fielding an arsenal of warships in the region and conducting periodic ‘freedom of navigation’ missions amid a broader US push to confront the People’s Republic.
While Duterte informed the US Embassy in the Philippines of his intent to end the VFA back in February 2020, voicing rage over a US visa ban slapped on a political ally, he has swung back and forth on the decision ever since. A full year after his initial announcement, he said he would keep the pact as long as the US would “pay” for it, though later backtracked on that demand as well.