Geopolitics, COVID-19 Behind Philippine About-Face on Defense Pact with US, Officials Say

Sandra Loyd

Geopolitical stress in the middle of a global pandemic led Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to keep a secret military pact with the United States undamaged in the meantime, Manila’s leading diplomat and other federal government officials stated Wednesday.

The Philippines was seeking to renew bilateral ties with its earliest ally by holding back for a minimum of another 6 months from leaving its 1999 Going To Forces Contract (VFA) with the U.S., Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. stated.

The COVID-19 pandemic, integrated with geopolitics, have actually caused “heightened superpower tensions,” Locsin informed a press conference without calling China, the Asian power competing with the Philippines and other countries over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“A world leader must be quick in mind and fast on his feet for the safety of our nation and the peace of the world,” Locsin stated, 2 days after Manila alerted Washington that it was suspending its decision to end the pact.

“We look forward to continuing our strong military partnership with the United States even as we continue to reach out to our regional allies in building a common defense toward enduring stability and peace and continuing economic progress and prosperity in our part in the world,” he added as he checked out from a ready declaration.

The VFA has actually permitted massive joint military drills with U.S. forces that, defense experts stated, were crucial to Manila as it deals with an obstacle from Beijing over territorial disagreements in the South China Sea. Apart from the Philippines and China, the possibly mineral-rich waterway is declared in entire or in part by Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.

“Because of security issues … in that part of the world (South China Sea), both our governments have seen it would be prudent for us to simply suspend any implementation of the termination,” Jose Manuel Romualdez, the Philippine ambassador to the U.S., informed ABS-CBN, a Philippine news network.

On The Other Hand, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana talked about continuous security efforts relating to the South China Sea.

“Even without the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA, the U.S. continues to patrol the South China Sea because according to them, that’s international waters and they can go there anytime they want,” Lorenza stated, including, “We’re dealing with Chinese in our own way.”

“In times of crises and global uncertainty, it is our belief that nations are only made stronger if we work together and focus our efforts on tracking the various challenges that confront us all,” Lorenzana stated in a declaration.

The defense chief stated he was notified by Duterte of the prepared turn-around on the VFA in May, which he was informed the nation required “cooperation from other countries to fight the pandemic.”

In February, the Philippine federal government alerted the U.S. that it prepared to drop the 21- year-old bilateral military pact. The relocation was expected to be completed in August.

“The president thought it’s untimely to end the VFA at this time,” Lorenzana stated, including Manila anticipated increased help from U.S. in the next 6 months.

‘A hedging strategy’

The head of the Philippine Society for Intelligence and Security Researches, a regional think-tank, explained the federal government’s turn-around on the VFA as tactical.

“It is a temporary suspension to allow American troops to conduct military activities in the Philippines in light of the pandemic and recent developments in the South China Sea,” security analyst Rommel Banlaoi informed BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service

“Duterte is playing with two major powers. It is a hedging strategy, to get the best of both worlds,” he stated.

U.S. officials invited the decision, revealed Tuesday.

“Our longstanding alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines,” the U.S. Embassy in Manila stated in a declaration posted on its website quickly after the statement.

The Philippines health department, on the other hand, tape-recorded 751 brand-new COVID-19 cases and 8 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the overalls to 19,748 and974 Internationally, more than 6.4 million people have actually been contaminated by COVID-19 and more than 381,000 have actually passed away since Wednesday, according to information put together by illness professionals at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

The post Geopolitics, COVID-19 Behind Philippine About-Face on Defense Pact with US, Officials Say appeared first on World Weekly News.