Philippine leader recalls decision to void US security pact

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reversed his termination of a key defense pact with the United States that allows large-scale combat exercises between U.S. and Philippine forces

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reversed his termination of a key defense pact with the United States that allows large-scale combat exercises between U.S. and Philippine forces.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced Duterte’s decision at a joint meeting with reporters Friday with his visiting U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, in Manila.

Another Philippine official earlier told The Associated Press that Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. would hand over a document to Austin about Duterte’s decision to keep the Visiting Forces Agreement in a separate meeting later Friday.

“The president decided to recall or retract the termination letter for the VFA,” Lorenzana said. “We are back on track.”

Austin welcomed Duterte’s decision, which he said would help bolster defense relations between the longtime allies.

The maneuvers involved thousands of American and Philippine military personnel in land, sea and air drills that often included live-fire exercises in pre-pandemic times and sparked China’s concerns when they were held in the periphery of seas Beijing claims as its own.

The pact’s termination would have taken effect after 180 days, but Duterte has repeatedly delayed the effectivity of his decision.

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