Duterte admits US vaccine donations helped save VFA

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his message after the ceremonial turnover of more than 3 million Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the US government at the Bulwagang Kalayaan in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City on August 3, 2021. ROBINSON NIÑAL/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte has revealed that the COVID-19 vaccine donations from the United States led him to recall the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“Give and take lang tayo, so pasalamat tayo sa kanila at may naibigay naman ako sa kanila na (we thank them, and I also gave them a) concession,” he said during his weekly public address Monday, August 2.

“I conceded the continuance of the Visiting Forces Agreement, in gratitude,” he added.

On July 30, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Duterte’s decision to continue upholding the defense pact with the U.S.

“PRRD’s (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) decision to recall the abrogation of VFA is based on upholding PH strategic core interests, the clear definition of PH-U.S. alliance as one between sovereign equals, and clarity of U.S. position on its obligations and commitments under MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty),” he said in a statement.

Duterte, in his address, also thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for not forgetting the Philippines.

“I’d like to thank the President of the United States, si Biden, the government, and the people of America for not forgetting us. Do not forget us because we share the same outlook in geopolitics, especially in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Recently, the Philippines received 3.2 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine donated by the U.S. government through the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility. Another three million doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived on Tuesday, August 2.

In February 2020, the Philippines sent the U.S. a notice terminating the VFA reportedly after the U.S. canceled Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s visa.

The abrogation was later suspended in June “in light of political and other developments in the region,” and the suspension was extended in November for another six months to enable the Philippines and the U.S. to find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement on how to move forward in their mutual defense.

Last month, Duterte extended the abrogation for another six months “while he studies and both sides further address his concerns regarding particular aspects of the agreement,” according to Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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