Philippines extends US military deal by another six months

File photo of US military forces crossing a flooded area near the shore during the annual Philippines-US amphibious landing exercise at San Antonio, Zambales province, Philippines on Oct 7, 2016. - Reuters

MANILA (Bloomberg): The Philippines will keep in place a key military deal with the US that President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to terminate.

Duterte is extending for another six months the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement "while he studies and both sides further address his concerns regarding particular aspects of the agreement, ” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said in a video.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana issued a statement in support of the move, adding that the additional review period would help Duterte "arrive at an informed decision on the matter.”

"Our bilateral cooperation with the US is geared towards upholding our national interest and to the extent necessary to enhance the Philippines’ defence capability, ” he said.

The Philippines in February 2020 notified the US that it would terminate the pact, which has governed military cooperation between the two countries since 1998. It’s key to implementing a mutual defence treaty signed in 1951, shortly after the Philippines achieved independence from the US.

Duterte also extended the stay order in November. Politicians in the Philippines have already started manoeuvring ahead of a presidential election next year in which policy toward the US and China is expected to remain a key issue.

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