Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed Washington’s support for Manila’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying in a thinly-veiled message to Beijing that an “armed attack” on Philippine military or civilian vessels “would invoke US mutual defense commitments.”
After months of vacillation on the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Phillipine President Rodrigo Duterte has renewed the agreement that allows US troops to remain in the country.
The decision came amid a visit by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who is touring several Southeast Asian nations in an attempt to shore up US defense ties in the region. However, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana let slip last week that the agreement was no longer in danger.
“The VFA is in full force again, there is no termination letter that is pending,” he added. “We are back on track, Mr. Secretary, to plan for future exercises under the VFA.”
“I don’t know the reason behind the President’s decision, I am not privy to the decision making. The DFA has been working for this to happen,” Lorenzana later said. “Maybe the President was just convinced so he decided to continue with the VFA.” However, he noted that Austin’s arrival had led to an “open and frank discussion on the status and future direction of Philippines-US engagement.”
“They agreed that the alliance can be further strengthened through enhanced communication and greater…