South China Sea, COVID-19 among reasons for suspending termination of VFA: PHL envoy to US

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Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that the COVID-19 pandemic and situation in South China Sea were considered in suspending the termination Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with US.

Ambassador Romualdez said COVID-19 is a “major concern” with regards to the Visiting Forces Agreement. “As a matter of fact many of the Balikatan exercises had to be moved or cannot be implemented because of the pandemic,” he said.

“The political reason is there’s quite a number of things that are happening right now in the South China Sea, very clearly we see that,” he added.

“And so because of security issues and many things that are happening in that part of the world. Both our governments have seen that it would be prudent to suspend first any implementation of the termination,” Romualdez said.

The diplomatic note, posted by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin on Twitter and was sent to the US Embassy in Manila, states that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is informing the US Embassy “that in light of political and other developments in the region, the termination of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States of America Regarding the Treatment of United States Forces Visiting the Philippines contained in Note No. 20-0463 dated 11 February 2020 is hereby suspended.”

“The suspension shall start on even date and shall continue for six months, which period is extendible by the Philippines for another six months, after which the tolling of the initial period in Note Verbale No. 20-0463 dated 11 February 2020 shall resume,” said in the diplomatic note.

It added that the DFA “avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Embassy of the United States of America the assurance of its highest consideration.”