Months after VFA restoration, Philippines agrees to hold over 300 military activities with US

MANILA, Philippines, October 16 ------ A few months after President Rodrigo Duterte decided to fully restore the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, the two countries agreed to hold over 300 activities for the next year. This decision came after the completion of the 2021 Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB), an annual defense and security cooperation meeting between the two allies.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. and US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) commander Adm. John Aquilino led the annual meeting on Thursday. In a joint media release, the AFP and the US INDOPACOM said the meeting resulted in "ensuring continued, robust relations between the US and Philippine militaries." Faustino said the Philippine military is privileged to to witness the advancing level cooperation and communication between the Philippine and US militaries. "I am optimistic that our alliance will continue to be robust in view of new and emerging security challenges that confront our nations. After all, we share the same goal of keeping peace and stability in this region," Faustino said.

INDOPACOM's Aquilino also noted that the two countries have shared a "deep friendship" for more than 200 years. "This friendship is based on values, to include upholding freedom for all people. The sanctity of freedom was the foundation of our alliance… and is still applicable today," Aquilino said.

In July, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that Duterte decided to recall his decision to abrogate the decades-old VFA following a meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Lorenzana, however, had called for a "comprehensive review" on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty due to evolving "geopolitical realities." “Much is to be desired in terms of the 70-year-old alliance, given what is happening in the South China Sea and beyond, not to mention the Philippines’ commitment to cultivate more balanced relations with other countries in the region,” Lorenzana said in September.