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Manila suspends VFA termination by another six months

The Philippine government announced on 14 June that it has suspended the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States by another six months.

In a video posted online by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Secretary of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had conveyed his decision to “extend the suspension” of the VFA abrogation “while he studies that both sides further address his concerns regarding particular aspects of the agreement”.

The DFA's announcement comes after local media reported that Philippine and US officials had submitted to President Duterte what was described as an “improved” version of the VFA.

The military pact, which came into force in May 1999, was originally set to be formally scrapped in August 2020 but Manila has kept holding off the termination, citing “political and other developments in the region”.

Among other things, the VFA exempts US forces and personnel from passport and visa regulations, and allows them to use their driving permits and licenses in the Philippines.

The agreement, which has enabled several large-scale joint exercises between US and Philippine forces – most notably the 'Balikatan' series – as well as several other activities between the two militaries, also stipulates which of the two countries will have jurisdiction over US personnel accused of committing unlawful acts while in the Philippines.

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