After meeting with The U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III last night, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte retracted the letter terminating the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States. Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine national defense secretary, made the announcement following a bilateral defense meeting with Austin today. The bilateral meeting is a platform for the United States and the Philippines — treaty allies — to discuss the situation in the region and plan for the future,
“After the meeting between Secretary Austin and the president, the president decided to recall or retract a termination letter for the VFA. So, the VFA is in full force again; there is no termination letter pending, and we are back on track with your secretary to plan for future exercises under the VFA. It underscored the significance of the bilateral defense relations between the Philippines and the United States in light of new and emerging challenges that confront our nations,” Lorenzana said.
Thanks to the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Defense Department conducts more than 300 bilateral engagements a year with the armed forces of the Philippines. These range from expert exchanges to ship visits to component exercises and major joint/combined training exercises. The two defense leaders discussed ways to deepen and reinvigorate the security alliance. They discussed maritime cooperation and U.S. support to the Philippines to modernize the armed forces of the Philippines. They also discussed investments that will help the Philippines navigate the region’s complex security environment.
The United States and the Philippines have a robust counterterrorism program. The United States has counterinsurgency efforts in Mindanao, the country’s largest island, since 2000. Like in the rest of Southeast Asia, the United States wants the sovereign right of nations to be respected. During the meeting with Lorenzana, Austin reaffirmed America’s commitment to supporting a sovereign and secure Philippines. They also talked about how their can work toward a free and open Indo-Pacific rooted in a rules based international order, a region in which countries work together to realize their highest aspirations and to safeguard the rights of all other citizens.