The Manila Times : Marcos mulls extending VFA

By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times

PRESIDENT-ELECT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is considering "extending" and "redefining" the country's Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, citing the "changing environment" in the region.

Marcos raised this possibility following his meeting with United States Chargé d' Affaires Heather Variava, where they discussed security issues between the Philippines and the United States.

"Siyempre security concerns pinag-usapan namin (Of course we discussed security concerns), the return or the re-signing or the extension of the VFA agreement and how it has to be redefined for the near future with the changing situation around the world, especially in our region," Marcos told reporters in a press briefing on Monday.

Marcos admitted that security concerns "have always been a big part of our relations with the United States."

He said that any assistance from the United States to help the Philippine economy is always welcome.

In June last year, President Rodrigo Duterte extended for another six months the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA.

He terminated the agreement in February 2020. The termination process, however, was suspended in June last year because of the pandemic and emerging threats in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippine government again held off the suspension in November 2020.

The VFA, which took effect in 1999, provides the legal framework for the presence of American troops in the Philippines as they conduct joint military exercises.

Marcos also met with Japan Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko, South Korea Ambassador Kim Inchul and India Ambassador Shambhu Kumaran.