The COVID-19 vaccine donations from the United States were among the bases for President Rodrigo Duterte to consider keeping the Visiting Forces Agreement with the country’s longtime ally, Malacañang said.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque admitted that part of the President’s decision could be because of the COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the US government.
“I said, the totality of circumstances. There’s a good possibility that was also part of the equation,” Roque said in a press briefing.
The US government has donated at least 13.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines so far. Of this number, 10 million doses were donated via global aid facility COVAX, while the 3.2 million doses were direct donations.
Another three million doses of Moderna donated by the US government are also expected to be delivered to the Philippines on Tuesday, August 3.
Roque said the President can proceed in terminating the VFA, but the termination was extended a number of times.
“Maybe the totality of what happened recently and the thorough assessment of what constitutes the national interest prompted him to withdraw his earlier termination,” he said.
Last year, the President threatened to abrogate the agreement should the U.S. fail to “correct” the cancellation of his ally, former police chief, and now Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go expressed optimism that the PH-US relations was further strengthened after President Duterte’s ‘fruitful meeting’ with United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III who guaranteed his country values the Philippines and intends to follow through with its commitment to make the alliance stronger.
Go, who accompanied the President in that meeting, considered as “good” the outcome of the meeting.
The former presidential aide said President Duterte was already able to openly express his sentiments during the said meeting.
“Hopefully also, with the lifting of the termination of the VFA , there will be a better relation between the US and the Philippines as a nation,” stressed Go.
He said the positive developments from the meeting would hopefully result to even stronger relations between the two countries.
Go further said the clarifications of Secretary Austin on the equal sovereign partnership between the Philippines and US, as well as the latter’s commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty were able to address key concerns of President Duterte.
He related at this time of global crisis, it is crucial to uphold the core strategic interests of the Philippines and its independent foreign policy of being ‘a friend to all and enemy to none’.
The Philippines was the final country to be visited by the U.S. Defense Secretary in a series of visits to Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states.