US lauds Philippines’ decision to delay termination of military deal

US lauds Philippines’ decision to delay termination of military deal
Mark Esper
Short Url
Updated 15 June 2020

US lauds Philippines’ decision to delay termination of military deal

US lauds Philippines’ decision to delay termination of military deal
  • It follows a U-turn by Manila on June 3 citing COVID-19 crisis as the core reason

MANILA: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper welcomed the Philippines’ decision to suspend the termination of a vital defense pact between the two countries, reiterating his support for a strong and enduring military alliance between Washington and Manila.

It follows a phone call between Esper and his Filipino counterpart, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on Friday, during which he greeted the latter on Independence Day and “expressed his support for the Philippines government decision ... to suspend the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) termination,” said a statement released by the Pentagon.

The two also discussed a range of regional security issues, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the South China Sea, counterterrorism cooperation, and the Philippines military’s modernization plan.

The Philippines’ Defense Department (DND) confirmed the conference call between the two officials on Sunday, adding that Esper “expressed his appreciation for (Lorenzana’s) support for the Philippine government’s decision to suspend the termination of the ... VFA.”

Esper also talked about the US making “very good progress” in the development of a COVID-18 vaccine, and Washington’s willingness to share it with US allies and partners, including the Philippines, once available.

Lorenzana, for his part, took the opportunity to share the Philippines’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed appreciation for the medical assistance and donations of medical supplies provided by the US government.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to sustaining dialogue amid the pandemic and strengthening cooperation between the two defense establishments.

On Feb. 11, the Philippines government informed the US Embassy in Manila of its intent to terminate the VFA on Aug. 9, 180 days from the date of notification.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has long been critical of the US, announced the unilateral decision after the Department of State canceled the visa for one of his political allies, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa.

On June 3, the Philippines announced it was temporarily suspending the termination of the VFA, with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. saying that the pandemic and “heightened superpower tensions” had prompted the presidential U-turn.

Signed in 1998 and entering into force in 1999, the VFA governs the legal status of US military forces operating in the Philippines and establishes rules by which US troops, vessels, and aircraft may enter the country.

The VFA, and all other bilateral military agreements and activities between the US and the Philippines are supplemental to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951, which serves as the foundation for the bilateral security relationship between the two countries and requires each to come to the other’s aid if attacked by a third party.

A report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in March noted that “while the termination of the VFA would not abrogate the MDT, it would complicate the Department of Defence’s ability to fulfill its obligations under the treaty.”

Abrogation of the VFA “raises uncertainties about the future of US-Philippine military cooperation, an essential part of the US security posture” in Asia, according to the CRS.

“The Philippines is a US treaty ally, and the termination of the VFA would not change that status... However, broad aspects of US-Philippine cooperation, including military exercises and US access to Philippine military facilities could be made difficult or impossible without the legal protection of the VFA,” the CRS report said.

Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said in February that without the VFA, the US “ability to help the Philippines and their counter-violent extremist fight in the (Mindanao) [and] (US) ability to train and operate within the Philippines and with Filipino armed forces would be challenged.”

French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso

French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso
Updated 21 January 2021

French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso

French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso

PARIS: More than 20 militants have been killed by French troops this month in Burkina Faso near the border with troubled Mali, the French military said Thursday.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso is struggling with a ruthless insurgency by armed Islamists who swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015.
Almost 1,100 people have died and more than a million people have fled their homes.
French Tigre helicopters on Saturday "neutralised" a "suspicious convoy of 30 motorcycles" on Burkinabe territory near the Mali town of Boulikessi in which some 10 extremists were killed, said Colonel Frederic Barbry, spokesman for the French defence staff.
The same day, a French drone struck a four-wheel drive vehicle heading for Mali, he said.
On Sunday, French helicopters fired on a convoy of 40 motorbikes "allowing us to stop the convoy and neutralise more than 10 armed terrorists and destroy about 10 motorbikes," Barbry added.
France has deployed troops in the region to fight extremists.