Manila: ‘Considering the developments in the South China Sea, the Philippines cannot end the military alliance with the US. The Philippines requires the US military, and thereby President Rodrigo Duterte won’t end US military access,’ the Philippines Foreign Ministry announced. The changed stance of the Philippines comes as a setback for China.
As per the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed between the US and Vietnam in 1988, the US military aircraft and vessels were granted free entry into the Philippines. However, President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the termination of the deal this February. President Duterte even issued a termination notice to the US Army to pull out its troops from the country in the next 180 days. The US will need to withdraw its military from the Philippines as a result by the end of August.
Nevertheless, President Duterte has reversed his decision on the military pact, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. informed. Foreign Minister Locsin has reported the change in arrangement to the US Embassy to the Philippines. Minister Locsin referred to the political and other developments in the South China Sea region and stated that the Philippines would retain the VFA agreement. The President has appealed to the US not to pull out any troops from the Philippines for the next six months. Accordingly, the US troops will remain stationed in the Philippines until February 2021, that is, until the swearing-in ceremony for the US President.
Meanwhile, the Philippines is believed to have appealed to the US military to stay put based on the sidelines of the aggressive Chinese moves in the South China Sea and the Coronavirus Pandemic. Also, China has claimed its stake over the Philippines maritime limits. The Chinese movements have increased in the area for the last few days. The recent developments thus appear to have caused a shift in the Philippines stance.