US-PHL meet on security and defense – DFA chief

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday confirmed that a bilateral meeting on defense between the Philippines and the United States was held on Feb. 11.

He, however, declined to provide further details, saying he would neither grant any media interviews nor issue a press statement related to the meeting as it “involves our national security and defense.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) only noted that the “working-level meeting” was held to discuss bilateral defense and security cooperation, “as part of regular and continuing engagement on strengthening our alliance.”

Locsin earlier said a high-level meeting is scheduled in the last week of February to discuss the fate of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

He said this engagement would provide an opportunity for both parties to “iron out whatever differences we have and come to an agreement.”

President Rodrigo Duterte in Feb. 2020 terminated the VFA a few weeks after the US revoked the visa of his former Philippine National Police chief and now senator Ronald dela Rosa. He later suspended the abrogation in June 2020 and announced in November 2020 an extension for another six months.

The VFA, signed in 1998, provides a legal framework on how visiting American troops should be treated in the Philippines. PNA.GOV.PH