The United States’ explanation about its role in the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff between the Philippines and China will be considered by President Rodrigo Duterte in his decision to extend or not the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
In a television interview on Tuesday night, Duterte said he wanted to hear the reason why the US did nothing when Chinese vessels decided to stay put in Scarborough Shoal in 2012.
“VFA is the problem. We have a big problem because America brokered a deal and ordered us to withdraw our ships. Why did it not force China to withdraw?” he said.
Duterte said he would only reconsider the Philippines’ military pact with the US once Washington can explain this.
“Unless they can explain it to me in a very simple way that the entire Philippines would understand, then I can begin to talk about the (VFA). If not, it’s unlikely to happen),” he said.
There was an agreement brokered by the US in 2012 for the Philippines and China to withdraw their ships from Scarborough Shoal to resolve the standoff in the area.
The Philippine vessels left the Scarborough Shoal, but Chinese ships stayed in the disputed waters.
In a public address delivered on May 14, Duterte made a firm stance that he would never let Filipino troops participate in any war with the US under his watch. He made the remarks as he slammed anew the US’ role in the withdrawal of Philippine vessels from Scarborough Shoal in 2012 amid a standoff with China.
On February 12, the President told the US to “pay” first before he reconsiders his decision to revoke the VFA, saying there is a need to give the Philippines something in return because it is the “nearest, possible and convenient outpost” near China.
However, Duterte on February 24 admitted that he could not decide whether to enforce or suspend anew the termination of VFA.
The VFA is a 1998 military pact between Manila and Washington that authorizes American troops participating in joint military drills to visit the Philippines sans passport and visa.
The Philippines formally notified the US about its intent to revoke the VFA in February 2020.
However, the VFA remains in effect after Duterte ordered on June 1 last year the suspension of its termination “in light of political and other developments in the region.”The Philippines extended in November last year the suspension of VFA termination for another six months. SOVEREIGNPH