Palace: Duterte’s decision unchanged, VFA termination only suspended

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte has not changed his decision to terminate the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, despite the suspension this week.

“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 (What happened is the termination has been suspended. He did not say the termination is no longer happening. The president has not changed his mind),” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday, June 4.

“Ang nasuspinde lang naman po ay iyong proseso ng termination, eh wala naman pong bagong desisyon ang presidente pagdating doon sa termination (The only thing suspended is the process of termination. The president has no new decision about the termination),” he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday, June 2 announced that the Philippines has suspended the termination of its Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States “in light of political and other developments in the region.”

“I issued this diplomatic note to the U.S. ambassador. It has been received by Washington and well at that. The note is self-explanatory and does not require comment except from me,” he said in a tweet.

“The abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement has been suspended upon the President’s instruction,” Locsin added.

In the diplomatic note attached to Locsin’s tweet, it said: “In light of the political and other developments in the region, the termination of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States Regarding the Treatment of the United States Visiting Forces Visiting the Philippines…is hereby suspended.”

The note also said that the suspension will start on an even date and will continue for six months — though it can be extended for another half a year.

“After which, the tolling of the initial period in Note Verbale No. 20-0463 dated 11 February 2020 shall resume,” it added.

On February 11, the Philippines sent a notice to Washington that terminated the 20-year defense agreement.

The United States welcomed the Philippines’ decision to suspend the abrogation of the VFA for now.

“On June 1, the Government of the Philippines notified the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines of its decision to suspend termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” the Embassy in Manila said Tuesday.

“The United States welcomes the Philippine government’s decision. Our long-standing alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines,” it added.

Roque likewise acknowledged the Philippines’ friendship with the U.S., saying the country can lend a hand especially in the fight against terrorism.

“Alam niyo po, bago na ang anyo ng terorismo ngayon. Wala na pong kinikilalang mga border at wala na pong kinikilalang mga bansa. So lahat po ng bansa na ating kaibigan, Amerika, Tsina, Russia, India, Australia, lahat po sila, importante lahat (You know, terrorism now has a new face. It knows no borders and countries. So, countries like America, China, Russia, India, and Australia are important because we consider them as our friends),” he said.

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