MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is in "no immediate rush" to finally abrogate the country's Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, his spokesman said Wednesday as the termination's suspension is set to end next month.
Duterte in June suspended his decision to abandon the pact because "he saw that the tensions in the South China Sea were getting in the way of a united response to the COVID-19 crisis," Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier said.
"That has an option of being further extended by another six months. So, my thinking is, perhaps the President will invoke the second 6-month time to finally abrogate the VFA," his spokesman Harry Roque told CNN Philippines.
"But anyway, what I am saying is, there is no immediate rush for the President to decide because the notification we sent to the Americans gives them at least one year leeway before it’s abrogated."
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 notice.
An extension of the reversal would push the deal's life up to the final year of Duterte's constitutionally-mandated single term, which ends in June 2022.
The pact, which took effect in 1999, is key to the US-Philippines' broader decades-old military alliance, and underpins hundreds of joint military activities per year as well as speedy disaster aid and ongoing anti-terror efforts.
The Philippine military receives significant American training and equipment, obtaining $554.55 million in US security assistance from 2016-2019.
US President Donald Trump had dismissed concerns about the VFA, saying, "that's fine, we'll save a lot of money."
--With reports from Agence France-Presse