MANILA – The grounds for the suspension of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) are “explanatory,” Malacañang said on Wednesday.
“The wordings of the communiqué sent to the US State Department, the words itself are explanatory,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, referring to the diplomatic note sent to Washington about the suspension of the VFA abrogation.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced on Tuesday night that his office, upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive, has notified the US about the Philippines’ decision to suspend the termination of the VFA.
In a diplomatic note dated June 1, Manila informed Washington that the suspension of VFA’s abrogation “shall start on even date and shall continue for six months, which period is extendible by the Philippines for six months”.
The revocation of the military pact between the two countries was suspended “in light of political and other developments in the region.”
Roque said only Locsin can elaborate on the reasons cited for the suspension of the VFA’s termination.
“I will defer to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs… He (Locsin) is the only one who will expound on it,” he said.
Duterte never mentioned with his Cabinet members his plan to suspend the abrogation of VFA, Roque said.
Roque, nevertheless, said he would ask Duterte on Thursday about the directive.
“It was not publicly brought up. I learned about it two weeks ago but it did not come from the mouth of the President himself. So I need to talk to him about it,” Roque said. “I will be meeting with the President tomorrow and that’s one of the issues that I will bring up with him”.
In a statement on Tuesday, Washington welcomed the government’s decision.
The US also expressed hope that it would continue to have “close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines.”
The VFA, inked between Manila and Washington in February 1998, authorizes US troops to visit the Philippines sans passport and visa to pave the way for their participation in joint military drills.
The VFA was originally scheduled to be revoked 180 days after Manila sent a formal notice of termination to the US on February 11.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to scrap the pact following the cancelation of the US visa of his ally, former national police chief and Senator Ronald dela Rosa and the criticism of some American senators against the Philippine government’s anti-illegal drug campaign. (PNA)