Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday announced that the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by the Philippine government has been suspended by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I issued this diplomatic note to the US ambassador. It has been received by Washington and well at that,” Locsin said on Twitter, where he also posted the note.
Locsin cited “political and other developments” in the region as reason for the Philippine government’s suspension of the VFA termination for six months, extendible by another six months.
The US Embassy in Manila confirmed receipt of the note and the US government’s positive response to the development that would assure the status quo on areas of cooperation between the two countries.
“Our long-standing alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines,” the embassy said in a statement.
President Duterte early this year decided to formally end the VFA over irritants like the alleged interference of the US on Philippine affairs like its campaign against illegal drugs.
Mr. Duterte also railed against the US over the cancellation of the US visa of former police chief and now Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.
The Philippines and the US have been holding joint military exercises under the VFA. The two countries are also signatories to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
Locsin and other cabinet members, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, had rued the threatened termination of the VFA that, some say, would have left the Philippines without its traditional ally, the US.
Critics of the VFA said it relinquished to the US criminal jurisdiction over its personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines.
They cited the case of US serviceman Lance Corporal Daniel Smith who stayed under US custody while on trial for the alleged rape of a Filipina in 2005.
A lower court’s guilty verdict on Smith was overturned on appeal.