VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte changes tune on terminating PH-US VFA

From stressing that the Philippines “did not need” the United States to “survive as a nation,” President Rodrigo Duterte, through his foreign affairs secretary, is now citing “political and other developments in the region” to delay by at least six months the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

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In an earlier radio interview, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, then also serving as the president’s spokesperson, flatly replied “hindi (no)” when asked if Duterte was in any way open to renegotiate the deal. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Palace negates AFP chief, says PH ‘not open’ to new military agreements)

The DFA note said the suspension will start on June 1 and will continue for six months. It may be extended by the Philippines for another six months, “after which the tolling of the initial period in Note Verbale No. 20-0463 dated February 11, 2020 (terminating the VFA) shall resume.” (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The Visiting Forces Agreement, explained)

In a press briefing on June 2, Locsin attributed Duterte’s change in position to the “vast and swiftly changing circumstances of the world in a time of pandemic and heightened superpower tensions.” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on the other hand, said the president might have deemed it “untimely” to terminate the deal given that “we need to cooperate with other countries to fight the pandemic.”



Teodoro Locsin Jr. official Twitter account, “I issued a diplomatic note to the US ambassador…,” June 2, 2020

Teodoro Locsin Jr. official Twitter account, “The Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States has received the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement…,” Feb. 11, 2020

RTVMalacanang, Oath-Taking of the NCCA Officials and Presentation of the 12th Ani ng Dangal Awardees (Speech), Feb. 26, 2020

ABS-CBN News, Duterte may also scrap EDCA, says Panelo: ‘Mukhang ayaw niya na rin’ | DZMM, Feb. 12, 2020

Senate of the Philippines, Senators ask SC to rule on the constitutionality of treaty abrogation, March 9, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Conference of President Rodrigo Duterte following the Inter-Agency Task Force Briefing on COVID-19, March 9, 2020

Department of Foreign Affairs official Facebook page, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announces the suspension of the VFA termination, June 3, 2020

Department of Foreign Affairs, Statement: On the Suspension of the Pending Termination of the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement, June 3, 2020

CNN Philippines, The Source: Delfin Lorenzana, June 3, 2020

RTVMalacanang, Press Briefing, Jan. 27, 2020

Official Gazette, Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States of America Regarding the Treatment of United States Armed Forces Visiting the Philippines, Feb. 10, 1998

RTVMalacanang, Ceremonial Distribution of Benefits to Former Rebels (Speech), Jan. 23, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)