Duterte to decide on US pact soon

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PCOO.GOV.PH

President Rodrigo R. Duterte is expected to decide soon whether to end a visiting forces agreement (VFA) with the United States, the Philippine ambassador to the US said on Friday.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said the two countries had spent a lot of time discussing how to improve the military pact on the deployment of troops for war games.

He said an improved version of the pact had been finished, but declined to provide details.

“It’s now in the Office of the President and I expect it to come out anytime now,” he told an online news briefing. “We’re very hopeful that the VFA will continue because it’s an important piece of agreement. It is kind of a bigger picture of our relationship, especially in our Mutual Defense Treaty.”

US Embassy in the Philippines Charge d’Affaires John Law said there had been “very productive, very good conversations” between the two governments.

He added that there were specific proposals to “clarify and strengthen” the implementation of the pact that is awaiting Mr. Duterte’s approval.

“We think the VFA has been a fundamental part of helping make the Mutual Defense Treaty successful,” he said. “We are committed to the success of our alliance with the Philippines and that commitment is going to remain strong.”

Mr. Duterte in February last year said he was ending the VFA after the US Embassy canceled the visa of Senator Ronald M. dela Rosa, his former police chief who led his deadly war on drugs.

He suspended the termination for six months in June, citing heightened tensions in the region and saying it was a distraction to countries’ anti-coronavirus efforts. It was suspended again for six more months.

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