Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to extend the suspension of the nullification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US by another six months.
The decision was announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
In a video message, Locsin Jr said: “The president conveyed to us his decision to extend the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement by another six months while he studies and both sides further address his concerns regarding particular aspects of the agreement.”
The South East Asian country has already postponed the decision twice by six months each time.
In February last year, the Philippines notified the US that it would cancel the military deal. It extended the suspension of VFA by another six months in November 2020. The agreement was expected to end this August.
Supporting the latest move, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said: “Our bilateral cooperation with the US is geared towards upholding our national interest and to the extent necessary to enhance the Philippines’ defence capability.”
The 1998 agreement governs cooperation between the two countries and facilitates the free entry of US troops and assets into the Philippines for annual military drills.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby in a statement said: “The department welcomes the Government of the Philippines’ decision to again suspend termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“We value the Philippines as an equal, sovereign partner in our bilateral alliance.
“Our partnership contributes not only to the security of our two nations but also strengthens the rules-based order that benefits all nations in the Indo-Pacific.”
Last December, the Philippines secured PHP1.4bn ($29.3m) worth of weaponry from the US as part of its efforts to enhance military capabilities.