The US forces will remain present in the Philippines after all, the Defense Secretary of the Southeast Asian nation, Delfin Lorenzana, announced on Friday, after President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to retain the long-standing Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Washington, DW reports.
Lorenzana announced the decision after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s meeting with President Duterte, who repeatedly vowing to end it, but she was unsure why the president had reversed his course.
Defense Secretary Austin, on his part, said that this decision would permit better long-range planning after providing certainty for Washington to go forward.
Duterte informed the US Embassy in the Philippines back in February 2020of his intent to scrap the VFA, effective since 1999, due to the US visa ban slapped on a political ally, but has swung back and forth on the decision ever since so even the Friday’s announcement is no guarantee the VFA will endure.
The military agreement sets the rules for the regular military exercises and wargames held in the Philippines as well as the rotation of thousands of American troops stationed there, but it came to be even more important as Washington turns its sights on Beijing, that is trying to assert itself in the region.
The disputed waters in the South China Sea has already created persistent tensions between the Philippines and China, while Pentagon parades with its arsenal of warships in the region and conducts periodic ‘freedom of navigation’ missions.