A scene from past US-PH joint “Balikatan” military exercise
By Junex Doronio
April 11, 2021
MANILA — Seems like a sunny day as Philippine and US defense chiefs in the face of Chinese “bullying” in the disputed West Philippine Sea expressed hopes to resume the joint “Balikatan” military exercise that was abruptly canceled last year.
According to a statement from the Department of National Defense (DND), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III tackled in a telephone conference recent developments in regional security.
“Both are looking forward to the conduct of Exercise Balikatan,” the statement said.
The statement further said that Austin, during the telephone conference, reiterated the importance of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries, while Lorenzana committed to discussing the matter with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
It can be recalled that last February, Duterte said he had not made a decision yet on the future of the United States.
With the historic pull out of the US military bases, the VFA provides the legal framework under which US troops can operate on a rotational basis in the Philippines.
But the relations between the US and the Philippines have been complicated since 2016 when Duterte repeatedly made statements condemning US foreign policy while befriending China.
Duterte unilaterally canceled the VFA last year when his ally former Philippine National Police (PNP) and now Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa was denied a US visa. (AI/MTVN)