MANILA - A United States warship on Monday docked in Manila, the first visit by a commissioned US Navy ship since 2019, the US 7th Fleet said.
USS Charleston, a littoral combat ship, arrived in the Philippine capital weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte withdrew his country's termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.
Duterte's decision was made after meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who visited Manila late last month.
“Our US Navy ships’ presence at sea and in ports like Manila promote security and stability that drives the peace and prosperity for the benefit of regional countries,” said US 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Karl Thomas in a statement.
“We appreciate the flexibility to resupply our ships in the Philippines so that they are ready to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region," he added.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the visit of USS Charleston was contactless, with its crew remaining aboard.
USS Charleston is on rotational deployment from San Diego, California under the Destroyer Squadron 7.
The US military said its visit highlights the "strong alliance, military relationship and renewed engagements" between the Philippines and the United States.
"The routine port visit is a continuation of the relationship as treaty allies, and furthers the friendship, partnership and alliance between the US and the Philippines," it said.
Duterte notified the US early last year about the abrogation of the decades-old VFA, which governs the conduct of American troops while in the Philippines for training and exercises. His decision stemmed from the cancellation of the US visa of his ally, Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, presumably over the latter's alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings in the government's drug war, on which the US had expressed concern.
But Duterte thrice suspended the pact's termination amid the COVID-19 pandemic, until his latest decision to fully restore it.
The VFA has assumed additional importance as the United States and its allies contend with an increasingly assertive China, especially in the South China Sea.