Philippines suspends abrogation of Visiting Forces Agreement with US

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2020 08:44 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2020 09:48 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines suspended on Monday the abrogation of its Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said Tuesday. 

In a diplomatic note to the US Embassy dated June 1, 2020, Locsin, said that the suspension is being made “in light of political and other developments in the region.”

On Twitter, Locsin said the suspension is being made upon the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte. He added the note has been received by Washington.

The US Embassy in the Philippines welcomed Manila's decision.

"Our long-standing alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines," the embassy said in a statement.

The termination was initially made on Feb. 11, 2020. Under the VFA, which governs the conduct of American troops in the country, the abrogation of the pact takes effect 180 days after the US government receives the notice.

In the latest diplomatic note, Locsin said the suspension of the abrogation will be in effect for six months, extendible by Duterte for another six months, “after which the tolling of the initial period” contained in the February note verbale shall resume.

US President Donald Trump had dismissed concerns about the VFA, saying, "that's fine, we'll save a lot of money."

Philippine senators asked the Supreme Court in March to clarify the Senate's role in the cancellation of treaties. The law requires Senate approval before the president can enter treaties with other countries, but the Constitution does not specify if the same applies during the termination process.

Duterte pulled out of the accord after Washington canceled the visa of his ally, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, who headed the government’s war on drugs when he served as national police chief.

Some U.S. officials have expressed concern over the apparent disregard for human rights in the Philippines' anti-narcotics campaign under the Duterte administration.

The VFA, signed in 1998, is anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty of Manila and Washington.