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Philippines to keep Visiting Forces Agreement with US

The Philippines has decided to recall the abrogation of its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) agreement with the United States.

Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana said in a 30 July statement that President Rodrigo Duterte made the decision following a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held the previous day in Manila.

“The Philippines and the US share a long history. We have been partners, and allies for more than 70 years. Apart from our political, economic, and socio-cultural relations, our ties between our defence establishments have continued to grow strong,” tweeted Lorenzana, adding, the “VFA is in full force again.... No challenge is insurmountable between longstanding allies that are committed to attaining shared goals of regional peace and stability.”

The military pact, which came into force in May 1999, was originally set to be formally scrapped in August 2020 but Manila 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 licences 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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