AFP to continue work with US after Duterte suspends end of VFA
MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will continue its engagements with the United States as President Rodrigo Duterte suspended the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement for another six months.
AFP chief General Cirilito Sobejana welcomed the decision of the President to extend the suspension of the agreement’s termination to allow further discussion and study. The termination had been suspended twice already.
“Your AFP will continue to enhance its capabilities through purposeful engagements with our treaty ally,” Sobejana said in a statement.
“Our engagements will be in enhancing the interoperability between our two armed forces to meet evolving security threats and in making the AFP better prepared and capacitated to address these security concerns,” he added.
Sobejana said the VFA was a “cornerstone” of the Philippine-US alliance, which he said has benefited the armed forces of both countries.
“The VFA specifically provides opportunities for joint and interoperability trainings between the AFP and US Forces, which is in furtherance of the existing Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951,” he said.
Last week, Sobejana met with Indo-Pacific Command (Indopacom) Admiral John Aquilino and US 7th Fleet commander Admiral Bill Merz to discuss defense issues, including the South China Sea, which China wants to steal and keep as its property.
Last February, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippine defense and military establishments are supportive of keeping the VFA.
Duterte unilaterally cancelled the VFA in 2020 in response to Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa’s failure to secure a US visa. Dela Rosa is one of Duterte’s trusted allies and his first national police chief.
The US, the Philippines’ longest treaty ally, earlier warned China against its continued aggression in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, and said any attack on the Philippines would trigger the operation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and Philippines.
The two countries are bound to defend each other in the event of an armed attack by a hostile party under the treaty. One of the operating mechanisms for the treaty is the VFA, which covers the conduct of US troops inside the Philippines.
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