President Rodrigo Duterte has not changed his decision to end the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States even after he suspended its implementation for six months, Malacañang said Thursday.
“Ang nangyari lang po, nasuspinde ang termination. Hindi pa po niya sinasabi na hindi na tuloy ang termination, so wala pong nagbago sa pag-iisip ng ating Pangulo,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised briefing.
Duterte’s foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on June 1 sent a diplomatic note to the US Embassy in Manila to inform them of the President’s decision to put the termination on hold for six months – a move welcomed by Washington, the Philippine defense department and some Filipino legislators.
Manila’s Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said on Wednesday that the country's decision to temporarily suspend the termination had been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and developments in the disputed South China Sea.
The Philippines said the suspension can be extended for another six months, “after which the tolling of the initial period in Note Verbale No. 20-0463 dated 11 February 2020 shall resume."
The Philippines officially notified the US government of its intention to abrogate the VFA, which governs the conduct of visiting US personnel holding military exercises in the Philippines, on February 11. The termination will take effect after 180 days.
Duterte had sought the termination of the VFA after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, his close ally, reportedly over the former national police chief’s involvement in the controversial war on drugs. -NB, GMA News