Philippines renews key military agreement with the United States


Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin introduced the restoration of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in a joint information convention in Manila on Friday.

The VFA, initially signed in 1988, provides US military plane and vessels free entry into the Philippines and relaxes visa restrictions for US military personnel. It is seen as vital to Washington with the ability to act to guard the Philippines beneath the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two nations.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had beforehand vowed to terminate the agreement, however had repeatedly pushed again the expiration date, Reuters reported, sustaining it till the finish of the 12 months.

Austin welcomed Duterte’s choice to reverse course, thanking the President for his choice to totally restore the agreement. “A strong, resilient US-Philippines alliance will remain vital to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific,” Austin stated. “A fully restored VFA will help us achieve that goal together.”

Historic US-Philippine ties

The Philippines was as soon as dwelling to 2 of America’s largest military bases exterior of the US: Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station.

Although these ceased to be US bases in the early Nineteen Nineties, US forces nonetheless had entry to them beneath the VFA and Manila maintained sturdy military ties with Washington.

But over the previous few years, Duterte had tilted away from the US and towards China, which has supplied a more in-depth financial relationship with Manila.

“I need China. More than anybody else at this point, I need China,” Duterte stated earlier than flying to Beijing in April 2018.

The Philippine President’s overtures to Beijing got here with the two international locations locked in an ongoing dispute over their competing claims in the South China Sea. Since 2014, China has labored to show quite a few obscure reefs and sandbars in the waterway into man-made synthetic islands closely fortified with missiles, runways and weapons methods — prompting outcry from different governments together with Manila.

In 2016, a tribunal in The Hague dominated in favor of the Philippines in a maritime dispute, concluding China has no authorized foundation to assert historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea.

Chinese exercise close to Philippines

Duterte’s pursuit of nearer ties with Beijing has come beneath growing stress at dwelling this 12 months as an uptick in Chinese exercise inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea has strained the Manila-Beijing relationship.

The Philippines took a tough tone earlier this 12 months over the lingering presence of a whole bunch of Chinese boats in its EEZ, particularly in April after China criticized Manila for staging naval and coast guard workout routines in the South China Sea.

Duterte stated at the time he wouldn’t compromise on his nation’s sovereignty in the waterway.

“So China, let it be known, is a good friend and we don’t want trouble with them, especially a war,” Duterte stated in a late night time handle. “But there are things that are not really subject to a compromise … I hope they will understand but I have the interest of my country also to protect,” Duterte stated.

Though the VFA disagreement had frayed US-Philippine military relations, US officers had been steadfast that there was no weakening of the mutual protection treaty because of it.

On the fifth anniversary of The Hague ruling earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the US’ commitment to defend the Philippines’ armed forces.

The US’ high diplomat stated the US might invoke the US-Philippine mutual protection pact in the occasion of any Chinese military motion in opposition to Philippine belongings in the area.

“We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” Blinken stated.



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