MANILA – National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., said Filipino and American forces can conduct small scale exercises even with the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

“Anong epekto? Eh di meron pa ring exercises, small maneuvers, exercises on disaster relief, we will have exercises on (anti) terrorism (What will be the effects? then we will still have small maneuver exercises on disaster relief and counter-terrorism),” Esperon said in a media briefing at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) building in Quezon City on Monday.

Even with the suspension of the VFA abrogation, he said the Philippines still has close ties with the United States.

“Malapit masyado sa atin ang Amerika (America is very close to us). People-to-people, cultural, economics, trade, marami tayong relasyon sa kanila at itong (we have a lot of relations with them and this) MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) is just one of them and because we have long been allies, you need not forget long-time allies when you start getting more friends. We get more friends and maintain the good relations with our long-time allies,” Esperon said.

The decision to suspend the abrogation of the VFA was officially communicated by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to the United States Embassy in Manila on June 1.

The VFA, established in 1999, provides a framework for a defense forces cooperation that allows joint exercises between the Philippines and the US.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte initially threatened to terminate the accord after Washington revoked the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the former Philippine National Police chief who implemented the administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

The campaign against illegal narcotics had been criticized by the US, with some American lawmakers introducing a Senate resolution criticizing the administration for the deaths related to the measure.

On February 11, the Philippine government officially sent the notice of VFA termination to the US Embassy in Manila. (PNA)

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