Visiting United States Defense chief Lloyd Austin and President Rodrigo Duterte renewed their commitment to further bilateral security cooperation between the Philippines and the US.
Austin’s two-day official visit coincides with 75th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries and the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty.
Prior to his arrival in the Philippines—America’s oldest treaty ally in Asia – the Pentagon chief criticized Beijing’s excessive claims in the South China Sea, saying these have “no basis in international law.”
“It was a good meeting,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Manila Standard. He did not elaborate.
However, he said the draft side pact to the Visiting Forces Agreement was not on the table during Austin’s courtesy call on the President.
“It is not part of the agenda,” Lorenzana added.
In a pre-SONA forum last week, Lorenzana said aside from extending the VFA with the US, the Philippines will sign an addendum or side agreement to the treaty.
“The VFA will not be changed. There will be a side agreement to implement the provisions of the VFA. Once it is signed by the President, that will be an official document that is attached to the VFA,” Lorenzana said.
Duterte earlier said he will likely sign the extension of the VFA after speaking to Austin, the first Cabinet official under US President Joe Biden to visit Manila.