Manila, Philippines (AP) —Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has overturned the end of a major defense agreement with the United States that will allow large-scale combat exercises between the US and Philippine forces.
Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana announced Duterte’s decision at a joint session with a reporter with US correspondent Lloyd Austin, who visited Manila on Friday.
Another Filipino official told The Associated Press earlier that Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. would give Austin a document about Duterte’s decision to maintain a visiting forces agreement at another meeting late Friday.
“The president has decided to revoke or withdraw the VFA termination notice,” Lorenzana said. “We are back on track.”
Austin welcomed Duterte’s decision, which he said would help strengthen long-standing defensive relations between allies.
Duterte notified the US government in February 2020 that the Philippines intends to abolish the 1998 agreement.
The operation involved thousands of American and Filipino military personnel in land, sea, and air training, often including live-fire exercises from the pre-pandemic era, and Beijing’s own claim to the sea. Raised China’s concerns when held in the surrounding area.
The termination of the agreement was supposed to come into effect 180 days later, but Duterte has repeatedly delayed the validity of his decision.
U.S. military presence in the region offsets China’s aggressive assertion of claims against the vast region of the South China Sea in conflict, despite a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated historical grounds. Has been regarded as. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and three other governments have been trapped in territorial conflicts for decades.