Palace: 'Good possibility' US vaccine donations part of why Duterte canceled VFA termination

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 2) — Why did President Rodrigo Duterte eventually keep the Visiting Forces Agreement? The United States’ COVID-19 vaccine donations could have played a role, says his spokesperson Harry Roque.

During his briefing on Monday, Roque said the “totality” of recent developments along with a “thorough assessment of what constitutes national interest” prompted the chief executive to revoke the decades-old military pact’s termination.

“I said, consider the totality of circumstances. There's a good possibility that was also part of the equation,” explained the official further when asked whether the U.S. government’s donated doses contributed to the President’s decision.

Last July 30, ​Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that Duterte recalled the abrogation of the agreement between Manila and Washington after his meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III.

Duterte will also be welcoming personally the arrival of over 3 million vaccine doses of the American brand Moderna this Tuesday, officials confirmed. 

The Philippines likewise received its first 1.6 million doses of the single-shot Janssen vaccine by American manufacturer Johnson & Johnson earlier this month. 

Kung talagang gugustuhin ni Presidente, talagang pinatuloy na niya ‘yung termination ng VFA. Pero nakailang beses siya ng extension ng termination,” the spokesman recalled.

[Translation: If the President really wanted to, he could have pushed through with the termination of the VFA. But he extended its termination several times.]

Duterte terminated the agreement in February 2020 but suspended its abrogation in June in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and emerging threats in the South China Sea. The government once again put off its revocation in November, then in June once more this year.