US DEFENSE CHIEF VISIT. President Rodrigo Duterte does a fist bump with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III during a courtesy call on the President at the Malacañang Palace on July 29, 2021. Duterte and Austin agreed that the Philippines and the US should bolster their cooperation in battling the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and transnational crimes, as well as in trade and investments. (Presidential Photo)
THE vaccine donation from the United States may be one of the reasons President Rodrigo Duterte lost interest in abolishing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), his spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said on Monday.
“Consider the totality of circumstances. There’s a good possibility that [it] was part of the equation,” Roque said in explaining the President’s decision to retain the VFA.
He told reporters Duterte’s decision may have been driven by other factors, including “upholding PH strategic core interests, the clear definition of PH-US alliance as one between sovereign equals, and the clarity of US’ position on its obligations and commitments” under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
The treaty compels the Philippines and the United States to come to each other’s aid in case of an armed attack.
President Duterte retracted his order to terminate the agreement following the July 29 visit to Manila of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin 3rd.
Roque reiterated that Duterte did not “fully” intend to scrap the VFA in the first place.
“Talagang kung gugustuhin ni Presidente, talagang pinatuloy niya ‘yung termination ng VFA. Pero patuloy siya sa extension (If he really wanted to, he would have pushed through with the termination of the VFA. But he repeatedly suspended it),” he said.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said Duterte will personally welcome today, August 3, the arrival of the Moderna vaccine the US donated through the Covax Facility.
Duterte had proclaimed in February 2020 that the Philippines will terminate the VFA after the US revoked the visa of Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, who was the chief of the Philippine National Police during the bloody war on drugs.
The President also had run-ins with then-US president Barack Obama, a staunch critic of his human rights record.
In June 2020, Duterte again suspended the VFA’s termination for another six months.