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Friday, February 3, 2023

US: Fully restored VFA vital in rules-based order in Indo-Pacific

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U.S. Soldiers, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, demonstrate breaching and clearing room techniques during counterterrorism training in support of Balikatan 2017 at Fort Magsaysay in Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija, May 11, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel James Lewis)

MANILA, Philippines — The United States on Friday welcomed the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to fully restore the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), saying the pact strengthens rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We strongly believe that the VFA, and the broader alliance that the VFA enables, strengthens not only the security of our two nations but also the rules-based order that benefits all nations in the Indo-Pacific,” the U.S. Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

The embassy also quoted U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as saying that “[a] strong, resilient U.S.-Philippine alliance will remain vital to the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.”

“A fully restored VFA will help us achieve that goal together,” the U.S. official added.

A “rules-based international order” is defined by the United Nations Association of Australia as a “shared commitment” by nations to abide by “international law, regional security arrangements, trade agreements, immigration protocols, and cultural arrangements” in carrying out their activities.

More than a year after vowing to scrap the VFA, Duterte decided to fully restore the pact following his meeting with Austin on Thursday. The U.S. official is in the Philippines until Friday.

On January 23 last year, Duterte threatened to discontinue the VFA after Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s U.S. visa was canceled.

The Philippines officially pulled out from the agreement less than a month after that, but the VFA termination process was held off thrice in the past year.


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