The termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States would put around 300 bilateral engagements and exercises at risk, a US official said on Tuesday.
In a telephonic press briefing, US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Clarke Cooper underscored the importance of ensuring that the annual military-to-military engagements could “take place unimpeded.”
“There is a significant amount of resources that had been invested in that bilateral relationship, and putting at risk–I don’t think anyone in the government of the Philippines would want to put at risk the numerous engagements,” he said.
Cooper added that the US and Philippine governments were eyeing a Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in March, during which the commitments between the two countries including the VFA would be discussed by officials.
“Because of outstanding shared interests when it comes to freedom of navigation, freedom of movement, joint security interests, future procurements–this is part of the broader dialogue as to why there remains value in the VFA,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. confirmed that he had signed and delivered the Philippines’ notice of termination for the VFA.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who made good on his threat to terminate the agreement, claimed that US President Donald Trump and other officials were trying to save the VFA.
The president ordered the termination of the agreement following the US’ cancellation of staunch Duterte ally Senator Ronald Dela Rosa’s visa, reportedly over his involvement in the administration’s war on drugs. — Julia Mari Ornedo/DVM, GMA News