The announcement was made during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The decision marks a reversal after President Rodrigo Duterte had told Washington last year that he was cancelling the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed in 1998. Earlier, the decision to cancel agreement caused concern in Washington as its efforts to challenge China in the region was hampered.
The VFA is an agreement between the two countries in support of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). The MDT was established in 1951 between the United States and the Philippines to provide mutual support in case of foreign attack.
VFA agreement provides rules for the rotation of thousands of US troops in and out of the Philippines for war drills and exercises. It has assumed additional importance as the United States and its allies contend with an increasingly assertive China, particularly in the disputed South China Sea
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin thanked Philippines president Duterte for his decision to continue cooperation with United States under VFA.
There are longstanding tensions between the Philippines and China over disputed waters in the South China Sea, as well as the repeated swarming of Chinese vessels within the Philippine exclusive economic zone. The friction between both countries has not yet gone to the point of escalation but still there are some elements which keeps Philippines government wary of China’s behaviour.