VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte recalls termination of VFA with US following vaccine donations

After declaring last year that he would “not renege” on his decision to terminate the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (U.S.), President Rodrigo Duterte backtracked and reinstated the controversial military deal as a “concession” following the donation of COVID-19 vaccines by Washington.

In his Aug. 2 weekly update on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Duterte thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for some 3 million doses of Moderna jabs that arrived in the country the next day.

He said:

“Give and take lang tayo (We just give and take). So pasalamat tayo sa kanila (Americans) at maibigay naman na — may naibigay na naman ako sa kanila na concession (So let’s thank them and [I] can give — I already gave them a concession). I considered the continuance of … the [VFA]. In gratitude, I said….”

Source: Presidential Communication Operations Office, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on COVID-19, Aug. 2, 2021, watch from 1:40:45 to 1:41:54

Signed in 1998, the VFA is a bilateral agreement covering U.S. military and civilian personnel temporarily staying in the Philippines for training and other official activities. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The Visiting Forces Agreement, explained)

The VFA affirms the obligations of the two countries under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty to respond in “unity” to any external armed attack on the other’s territory, armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft.

VERA Files Fact Check tracked how Duterte actually postponed three times the implementation of the abrogation of the military pact since he ordered it in early 2020:


Sources

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, February 10, 1998, Feb. 10, 1998

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

CNN Philippines, Sen. Bato Dela Rosa confirms his US visa has been canceled, Jan. 22, 2020

Teodoro Locsin Jr. official Twitter account, “@DFAPHL Leaving for Wash DC for unrelated matters…,” Jan. 24, 2020

Presidential Communication Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador S. Panelo, Jan. 27, 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

Office of the Presidential Spokesperson official Facebook page, “On the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States,” Feb. 11, 2020

ABS-CBN News, Duterte may also scrap EDCA, says Panelo: ‘Mukhang ayaw niya na rin’ | DZMM, Feb. 13, 2020

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

CNN Philippines, HAPPENING NOW: Legal experts, diplomats, and former and incumbent officials weigh in on the termination of the [VFA], Feb, 28, 2020

Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador S. Panelo, March 2, 2020

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

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

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

Department of Foreign Affairs, STATEMENT: ON THE SUSPENSION OF THE PENDING TERMINATION OF THE PH-US VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT, June 2, 2020

CNN Philippines, The Source: Delfin Lorenzana (6.03.20), June 3, 2020

Department of Foreign Affairs, Statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. on VFA Extension, Nov. 11, 2020, watch here

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Meeting of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with Emerging Infectious Diseases Experts on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) -- Part II, Dec. 26, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the Inspection of Newly Delivered Air Assets and Talk to to Troops, Feb. 12, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Feb. 15, 2021

Stimson Center, COUNTERTERRORISM SPENDING: Protecting America While Promotion Efficiencies and Accountability, May 2018

Department of Foreign Affairs official Twitter account, “SFA @teddybolocsin announces President Duterte’s decision…,” June 14, 2021

Department of National Defense, HAPPENING NOW | Joint Press Briefing of PH Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, July 30, 2021, watch from 4:56 to 5:33

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, “Thank you, Secretary @del_lorenzana, for discussing a range of topics, including President Duterte’s decision to fully restore the Visiting Forces Agreement…,” July 30, 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs, Remarks of Secretary Locsin, Jr. on VFA and Visit of U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin III, July 30, 2021

Presidential Communication Operations Office, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on COVID-19, Aug. 2, 2021

Presidential Communication Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Aug. 2, 2021

U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, U.S. Provides More Than 3.2 Million Johnson & Johnson Vaccines to the Philippines, July 19, 2021


(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.)

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