Philippines military looking forward to keep US troop deal: minister
January 21, 2022
Asia

Philippines military looking forward to keep US troop deal: minister

MANILA (PHILIPPINES) – The Philippines defence apparatus is looking forward to keep a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, said its defence minister on Thursday, as officials came together for a meeting to solve differences over a pact central to Washington’s Asia strategy.

Thursday’s meeting in Manila between US and Philippine officials comes in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte, who openly talked against the US alliance, unilaterally aborted the two-decade-old VFA last year. This was an angry response to an ally, who was being denied a visa.

The withdrawal period has been extended two times, however, to make way for what Philippine officials say would be a platform for better terms to be decided upon.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told news channel ANC, “We at the defence department and the armed forces, the general feeling is for the VFA to continue.”

Lorenzana said the VFA, which charts out rules for US soldiers operating in the Philippines, has been seen as having vital important in strengthening and equipping the under-resourced Philippine forces through a bunch of annual joint training exercises.

US counterpart Lloyd Austin emphasised about the same during a call with Lorenzana on Wednesday.

But while the Philippines-US relationship “has always been strong”, Lorenzana said the Southeast Asian nation “should not be made to choose” between Washington and Beijing.

Lorenzana has also voiced his concerns about a new Chinese law giving a boost to the coastguard to fire on what according to it are threats, and repeated US navy patrols that China considers as provocations.

“I told Secretary Austin we don’t want any miscalculations or accidents in the South China Sea because we are right smack there in the centre of conflict,” Lorenzana said.

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