Sunday, June 14, 2020

U.S. thanks PH for delaying VFA termination, promises vaccine

From Rappler (Jun 14, 2020): U.S. thanks PH for delaying VFA termination, promises vaccine (By Rambo Talabong)

The United States is home to one of the world's current frontrunners in developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus

TREATY ALLIES. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (L) and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper agree that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty needs to be updated. Esper visited Manila on November 19, 2019. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday, June 12, thanked the Philippines for suspending the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a sudden decision by the Duterte administration prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Sunday, June 14, the Department of National Defense (DND) said that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Esper spoke by phone on Friday where the latter also gave an assurance that the US would share with its allies “developments on vaccines and therapeutics” as the world continues to struggle against COVID-19.

The phone call between Lorenzana and Esper came on the heels of that of President Xi Jinping and President Rodrigo Duterte where the Chinese leader promised to make the Philippines a "priority" once they have developed a vaccine.

The US is the Philippines’ oldest powerful military ally but Duterte steered a pivot to China as soon as he assumed office in 2016.

It was in February when the Philippines sent its notice of termination for the decades-old VFA after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, one of Duterte's closest men. 

(READ: EXPLAINER: Visiting Forces Agreement)

After the pandemic erupted, the Philippines announced the postponement of the termination owing to "political and other developments in the region." (READ: VFA termination suspended due to pandemic, geopolitics – Locsin)

To stay updated on news, advisories, and explainers, check out our special coverage page, “Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.”

In his phone call with Lorenzana, Esper assured the Philippines of support from the US during the pandemic.

"Secretary Esper mentioned that developments on vaccines and therapeutics in the US are making very good progress, and expressed their willingness to share them with US allies and partners once available," the DND said.

Lorenzana gave Esper updates on the situation in the country and thanked the US for its assistance to the Philippines’ coronavirus response.

The US is currently home to one of the frontrunners of manufacturers attempting to formulate a vaccine against the coronavirus.

US biotech firm Moderna is set to enter the third and final stage of its clinical trial in July with 30,000 participants, the firm said on Thursday.

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