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AFP sees better days ahead in ties with US military

/ 03:57 PM August 24, 2021

Indopacom chief Adm. John Aquilino visits the Philippines to mark the 70th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty. AFP PAO

MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is looking forward to more progress in its alliance with the United States military following Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to retain the Visiting Forces Agreement, a key defense pact between the two long-time allies.

“Now more than ever, we in the AFP positively look forward to more advancements and developments as favorable offshoots of our alliance, and as a natural consequence of our enduring partnership,” AFP Inspector General Lt. Gen. Nemesio Gacal said on Monday (Aug. 23).

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Gacal represented AFP chief Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. at a meeting with US Admiral John Aquilino, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command (Indopacom), who was in the Philippines for the 70th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

“The AFP is immensely grateful for the decision of the President and AFP commander-in-chief Rodrigo Roa Duterte to recall the note verbale on the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Gacal said.

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“The AFP eagerly anticipates the subsequent headways resulting from this sound decision,” he said.

After a meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Jr. in late July, Duterte decided to keep the VFA despite his previous threats to scrap it.

The large-scale presence of American troops in the Philippines, as well as other defense pacts like the MDT, are dependent on the VFA. The US presence in the region has been viewed as a deterrent to China, which continues to grab maritime territory in the South China Sea on the basis of its fictitious nine-dash line claim.

Aquilino said the alliance between the Philippines and US was more important than ever “to confront the security challenges in this region that threaten our way of life.”

“From rejecting unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea to countering malign influences throughout the region, the strength of our alliance is what will ensure our continued success in these endeavors,” he said.

Aquilino, who was in the Philippines for the first time as Indopacom commander, also met with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

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TAGS: Armed Forces of the Philippines, Indo-Pacific Command, Lloyd Austin, Mutual Defense Treaty, Rodrigo Duterte, South China Sea, US armed forces, Visiting Forces Agreement, West Philippine Sea
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