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Lorenzana sees Duterte OK of new VFA terms

/ 07:09 PM July 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday (July 21) said he was confident that President Rodrigo Duterte would agree to the new terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, which continued to hang in limbo after a decision to scrap it was extended for another six months.

“I trust, I am confident that this will be signed under President Duterte,” Lorenzana said at a media forum ahead of Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA).

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“But the termination letter is still pending until December so we’ll see what happens, if the President extends it or proceeds with abrogating the VFA,” he said.

In June, Duterte suspended for a third time a move to abrogate the long-standing agreement, which was supposed to expire in August, for another six months while Duterte studied it and addressed the concerns of both sides.

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Duterte first tried to cancel the deal in 2020 after one of his most trusted allies, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, was denied of a US visa.

The large-scale presence of American troops in the Philippines, as well as other defense agreements, are largely dependent on the VFA.

Duterte’s outburst prompted both sides to work on revisions on the agreement.

“We are not changing it. There are just additions to this document to implement the provisions,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said he expected the VFA to be on the agenda when his American counterpart, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the first Black American to hold the position, visits the Philippines next week.

Lorenzana said he also expected the Mutual Defense Treaty, relations with the US, and West Philippine Sea to dominate the conversation.

A proposed itinerary seen by Inquirer.net showed that Austin was scheduled to meet Duterte during his Manila visit on July 29 to 30, as part of a three-nation swing through Southeast Asia that also included Singapore and Vietnam.

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“The itinerary is still being finalized,” Lorenzana told Inquirer.net when asked to confirm.

Austin is the first senior member of the Biden administration to visit the region.

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TAGS: Delfin Lorenzana, Lloyd Austin, Mutual Defense Treaty, Rodrigo Duterte, United States, Visiting Forces Agreement
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