TAIPEI, TAIWAN – The Philippines, an old American ally in Asia, is changing its view on whether to scrap a key U.S. military pact, as it explores new ways of benefiting from U.S. defense aid without isolating its newer superpower friend, China, analysts and officials say.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte this month announced that cancelling the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would be suspended for another six months, which lets U.S. troops access Philippine soil for military exercises aimed at regional security as well as local humanitarian work. Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday that in six more months “we will know” the president’s decision.
The first suspension was announced in June, four months after Manila said it would fully withdraw from the 21-year-old pact.
Duterte hopes the suspensions will prompt the United States – which wants to keep the agreement so its military personnel can easily reach Asia – renegotiate the two-way defense relationship with a focus not just on warding off China but also on quelling armed rebels at home, analysts believe.