Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to retain a long-standing deal to keep US forces in the country after repeatedly vowing to end it. His defense minister said after meeting with his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin.
- Duterte told the United States in February last year he planned to ax the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) after Washington canceled the visa of a close ally who led his internationally condemned war on drugs.
- The deal has been prolonged three times since then, most recently in June after months of negotiations between the two sides.
- Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday the VFA was “in full force again”, during a news conference with Austin, who was in Manila on the last stop of a Southeast Asia tour.
- “Last night, after the meeting between Secretary Austin and the president… the president decided to recall or retract the termination letter for the VFA,” Lorenzana said, adding: “We are back on track”.
However, Friday’s announcement is no guarantee the VFA will endure. A presidential race set for May 2022 adds yet more uncertainty over the future of the pact.