Duterte warns US: 'No vaccines, no VFA'

 By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Military personnel exercises (PHOTO: Yahoo News)

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte warned the United States government on Saturday that he would continue with the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) if it could not provide the Philippines with its COVID-19 vaccines.

In a meeting with Cabinet members and infectious disease experts in MalacaƱang, the chief executive demanded at least 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from the US to stop the abrogation of the VFA.

“Iyong Visiting Forces Agreement, matatapos na. Ngayon kapag hindi ako pumayag aalis talaga sila. Kung hindi sila makadeliver ng maski minimum of mga 20 million (doses) of vaccines, ah they better get out,” Duterte said.

“No vaccine, no stay here,” he added.

In February, Duterte scrapped the VFA over its alleged inequities in its treaty provisions and the US’s alleged assault on the country’s sovereignty and disrespect for its judicial system.

His decision came following criticism of some US senators against his crackdown on illegal drugs, as well as the cancellation of the US visa of his ally, former national police chief, and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa.

Fortunately, the revocation of the military pact between the two countries was suspended “in light of political and other developments in the region”.

According to the diplomatic note dated June 1 and addressed to the US government, the suspension of VFA’s termination is effective for six months but can be extended by the Philippines for another six months.

The VFA, a military pact signed between the Philippines and the US in 1998, allows American troops who are participating in joint military exercises to visit Manila without passport and visa.

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