• Melo Acuna

Locsin sees strong military partnership with the US as VFA abrogation is suspended

Foreign Secretary Locsin said strong military partnership with the United States seen

MANILA – Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said he was instructed by President Rodrigo Duterte to “inform via diplomatic note” Ambassador Sung Kim that the Philippine government decided to suspend the pending termination of the visiting forces agreement.

“We look forward to continuing our strong military partnership with the United States even as we continue to reach out to our regional allies in building a common defense towards enduring stability and peace and continuing economic progress and prosperity in our part of the world,” Locsin said in a short statement before the media late Wednesday morning.

He said many will be wondering why President Duterte changed his mind.

“A man who does not change his mind cannot change anything. He (President Duterte) ran on the slogan ‘Change is coming.’ But in the cast and swiftly changing circumstances of the world, the time of pandemic and heightened super power tensions, a world leader must be quick in mind and fast on his feet for the safety of our nation and the peace of the world,” he added.

He explained this action need not alarm countries in Asia and the world as the decision “greatly reassures everyone.” He added everyone is free to speculate about what is clear and true.

He concluded his brief appearance by saying “the reckless and bad intention may undo, thou I doubt they have the credibility the good that we all, women and men of peace and goodwill, seek.”

The Department of National Defense said they support the decision to suspend the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement which the Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs relayed to the United States Embassy last Monday, June 1,2020.

“The Philippine defense establishment is ready to continue working closely with our US counterparts to find solutions to common concerns such as the ongoing pandemic that has greatly affected both our countries,” Secretary Lorenzana said in a statement Wednesday morning.

He said the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue to consult with the office of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces on issues that need to be dealt with.

“in times of crisis and global uncertainty, it is our believe that nations are only made stronger if we work together and focus our efforts on tackling the various challenges that confront us all,” Secretary Lorenzana concluded.

Meanwhile, UP College of Law Associate Dean Jay Batongbacal said the Philippine government is either playing for time because they haven’t gotten what they want or they are worried that recent Chinese actions against Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia might turn against the Philippines or they are considering possible activities that require VFA to stand beyond August, like the Humanitarian and Disaster Response (HADR), during the pandemic. (Melo M. Acuña)

Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (Screen shot from DFA FB Page)

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