Earlier this week, Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin announced that the Philippines would temporarily suspend its denunciation in February of the Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). While an important temporary pardon for the Alliance, it leaves unresolved the same broader strategic issues that demonize the relationship under the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. This raises uncertainty about the future of military cooperation between the Philippines and the United States, an important part of the U.S. security situation in Asia. The Philippines is an ally of the American treaty and the end of the VFA would not change that status. However, many aspects of U.S.-Philippine cooperation, including military exercises and U.S. access to Philippine military facilities, could be made more difficult or impossible without the legal protection of the VFA. This lack of cooperation could hamper U.S. efforts to use the network of U.S.
alliances in the region, address tensions in the South China Sea, where the Philippines has long been in conflict with China, and implement counterterrorism measures in the southern Philippines. It could also have implications for humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions throughout the region. But the VFA, the last iteration of which was originally ratified in 1999, plays a fundamental role in normal military activities within the Alliance`s boundaries. Without VFA, the temporary presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines and, importantly, the implementation of the Defence Cooperation Act 2014 (EDCA) would be impossible. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the United States and the Philippines, signed in 2014 by President Obama and Duterte`s predecessor, Benigno Aquino Jr. allows for an increased rotating presence of U.S. forces, ships and aircraft in the Philippines, as well as increased U.S. access to Philippine military bases. The agreement contributed to the achievement of an important strategic objective of the Department of Defense, which attempted to expand the U.S. presence beyond major bases in Japan and South Korea.
A new implementation would be difficult without the VFA. The main effect of the agreement is to require the U.S. government to notify the Philippine authorities when it is aware of the arrest, arrest or detention of Filipino personnel visiting the United States and, at the request of the Philippine government, to invite the competent authorities to exercise jurisdiction on behalf of the Philippines, except in cases of particular interest to the State Department or the Secretary of Defense.  [VIII1] The waiver of U.S. jurisdiction is complicated because the United States is a federation of American states and therefore a federation of jurisdictions. On February 11, 2020, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte officially announced at the U.S. Embassy in Manila that he was coming to an end to the pact, with the denunciation expected to come into force in 180 days, unless otherwise agreed during that period. In the past, Duterte has shown admiration for both Russian forces and the People`s Liberation Army of China, although the Philippines and China are involved in a dispute in the South China Sea over sovereignty over the Spratly Islands.  In June 2020, the Philippine government reversed this decision and announced that it was maintaining the agreement.  The termination of the VFA would not end the alliance between the United States and the Philippines, governed by the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty.
Many in the Philippines, particularly in defence and foreign policy institutions, want the VFA to be prosecuted. On February 6, 2020, Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. reportedly said at a Philippine Senate hearing that the continuation of the agreement was “more beneficial” to the Philippines than to end it. Some supporters are trying to avoid President Duterte`s actions.