Lorenzana says ready to work with US military again as Duterte shelves VFA repeal

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2020 12:23 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte discusses matters with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on the sidelines of the Joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP) Command Conference at the Malacañang Palace, June 18, 2019. Simeon Celi Jr., Presidential Photo/File

MANILA- The Philippines is "ready" to work with the United States on defense mechanisms anew, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday after President Rodrigo Duterte shelved the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries.

Duterte ordered the suspension of the repeal of the military accord “in light of political and other developments in the region," Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Tuesday.

Lorenzana welcomed the decision, saying the Philippines is prepared to work with the US on "common concerns," citing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

"The Philippine defense establishment is ready to continue working closely with our US counterparts to find solutions to common concerns such as the ongoing pandemic that has greatly affected both our countries," he said.

"In times of crises and global uncertainty, it is our belief that nations are only made stronger if we work together and focus our efforts on tackling the various challenges that confront us all," he added.

Duterte in February ordered to start the termination of the VFA after Washington canceled the visa of his ally, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, who headed the government’s war on drugs when he served as national police chief.

Under the VFA, which governs the conduct of American troops in the country, the abrogation of the pact takes effect 180 days after the US government receives the notice.

Locsin said the suspension of the abrogation will be in effect for six months, extendible by Duterte for another six months, “after which the tolling of the initial period” contained in the February note verbale shall resume.