Bangkok, Jul 30 (EFE).- The Philippines decided to maintain its military troop visit agreement with the United States after a meeting between the President Rodrigo Duterte and United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who concluded his Southeast Asia tour Friday in Manila.
Duterte’s decision, which had proclaimed the end of the agreement several times in recent months, was announced Friday by Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, during a joint press conference with Austin, who said the measure will strengthen relations with the Philippines, the US’ oldest Asian ally.
“The president has decided to withdraw the termination letter from the (agreement),” Lorenzana said, after more than a year of threats from Duterte that he would terminate the agreement with his historic ally, while strengthening ties with neighboring China.
“Our countries face a host of challenges, from climate crises to pandemic, and as we do so, a strong and resilient partnership between the US and the Philippines will be vital to security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Austin said.
The agreement, which came into effect in 1999, provides legal cover for US troops to enter the Philippines for joint maneuvers.
In addition, the Philippines and the United States have other more comprehensive security treaties, such as the Mutual Defense Agreement dating back to 1951.
Despite Duterte’s critical stance towards the United States – as he has shifted his foreign policy towards China and Russia – military cooperation between the two nations has remained strong, especially in counterterrorism, and joint military training has increased in the last years.
Austin arrived Thursday in Manila after visiting Singapore and Vietnam, in a trip perceived by some experts as an attempt to reinforce the US presence in an area marked by the influence of China, which maintains a territorial conflict in the South China Sea with Vietnam, the Philippines and four other countries. EFE