Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to fully restore the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA ) with the US, which governs the presence of American troops in the country.

In a joint press briefing on 30 July, Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced Duterte’s decision to retract the notice of termination of the VFA.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is on a two-day official visit to the Philippines on 29-30 July.

In a bilateral meeting held at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, the two officials discussed enhancing security ties and defence cooperation between the countries, developments in the South China Sea (SCS) and the Indo-Pacific region.

Austin said: “A strong and resilient US and Philippines alliance remain vital to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. A fully restored VFA will help us achieve this goal together.

“I am glad to have the opportunity in person, to reaffirm our shared commitment to the US-Philippine alliance.”

Signed in February 1998, the VFA governs the presence and activities of US troops and military aircraft and vessels in the Philippines.

Under this agreement, US personnel also enjoy relaxed passport and visa policies.

In February last year, the Philippines notified the US that it would cancel the VFA deal. It extended the suspension of VFA by another six months in November 2020. The agreement was expected to this August.

Last month, Duterte decided to extend the suspension of the nullification of the VFA with the US by another six months.

In December 2020, the Philippines secured PHP1.4bn ($29.3m) of weaponry from the US as part of its efforts to enhance military capabilities.