MANILA — The US State Department’s approval of the possible sale of P118 billion worth of military equipment and fighter jets to the Philippines is unrelated to ongoing talks on the Visiting Forces Agreement, a US Embassy official said.
US Embassy Charge d’Affaires John Law said the proposed sale strengthens the interoperability of the armed forces of the United States and the Philippines.
According to Law, the US stands ready to help in the Philippine military's modernization plan.
“We understand that the Philippine defense department is studying and considering what it would like to do in terms of its overall modernization plan and on all aspects of that and the F-16s (fighter jets) will be included in that," Law said.
"The United States stands ready to cooperate with the Philippines as US equipment is deemed the most appropriate for the Philippine armed forces."
Asked if the proposed sale is related to the current talks to improve the VFA, Law said, it was "absolutely unrelated.”
He expressed hope that the VFA will continue, adding that the Americans are determined to do everything it can to strengthen the US-Philippine alliance.
"We’ve said very clearly that we think the VFA is very important. We support it and we’re hopeful that we can arrive at a satisfactory arrangement to continue that,” he said.
Law said various programs are expected to continue as both countries mark the 75th year of bilateral relations. These include educational exchange programs, the resumption of activities of the Peace Corps, and USAID development programs.
The US Embassy anticipates the arrival of more American-made COVID-19 jabs in the Philippines, especially after US President Joe Biden vowed to donate vaccines.
“I expect some of those vaccines in significant numbers to be arriving here in the Philippines in the very, very near future and President Biden announced that through the course of this year and next year, the US is going to donate from our supply an additional 500 million vaccines around the world,” Law said.
In his formal remarks, Law stressed that US-Philippine ties remain strong, pointing out a security alliance that “helps ensure peace and stability throughout the region” since the signing of the Treaty of Manila in 1946, trade and investment ties and people-to-people ties.
“Through wars, natural disasters, pandemics, and whatever else may come our way, the US-Philippine relationship is — as (Philippine to US) Ambassador Romualdez would like to say — ‘Thriving at 75,’” Law said.
“Ang tunay na magkaibigan, walang iwanan.”