The Philippines’ decision to suspend anew the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was “sound and strategic,” according to a lawmaker.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who serves as the vice-chairperson of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, pointed out that the move will give the new administration of the United States some time to settle in and possibly pursue talks with the Philippines on issues concerning the VFA.
“The impending change in administration in the U.S. offers the Philippines an opportunity to engage the new administration and discuss concerns pertaining to the PH-U.S. relationship and come to a refresh or reboot of security arrangements in the Region,” Biazon said Friday, November 13.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday, November 11 said the extension of the VFA’s termination was decided to “find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement on how to move forward in our mutual defense.”
Biazon noted, “This shows that the Philippines is serious in coming up with an agreement which is strong in upholding peace and order in the areas around the West Philippine Sea (WPS) but sensitive to the interests of both countries and consistent with mutuality.”
He also said that the Philippines is in the middle of the area covered by the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) Strategy of the United States. This gives the country a strategic value to the United States, which makes a defense and security agreement between the two countries desirable.
“I don’t see the U.S. changing FOIP Strategy even with a change in administration. It is a national defense and national security issue to them, which usually remains geared towards a specific strategic direction regardless of the party in power,” Biazon said.
“The U.S. would like to ensure that Freedom of Navigation remains in the international waters and sea lanes crossing from the Indian Ocean through the WPS to the Pacific Ocean,” he added.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila, for its part, welcomed the extension.
“We welcome the Government of the Philippines’ November 11 decision to suspend termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for another six months,” it said in a statement.
“The U.S.-Philippines alliance remains vital to our robust, deep-rooted bilateral relationship.
The United States will continue to partner closely with the Philippines to strengthen our mutual security ties,” the embassy added.