Manila: The Philippines is expected to improve its defence ties with other countries in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.
“As long as the terms are of mutual benefit to both countries, we are open (to having a military agreement similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement or VFA),” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a regular palace press briefing.
The Philippines had been largely dependent on the US for its defence needs. However, in recent years under the Duterte and Aquino administrations, there had been efforts to look clearly into the VFA on whether the country is really getting what it deserves on a supposed equal partnership.
The VFA spells out parameters for the conduct of joint military exercises between US and Philippine forces, but others say that the more than two decades old pact favours Washington more than it does Manila.
“It’s about time we rely on ourselves. We will strengthen our own defences and not rely on any other country,” Panelo said.
Rather than staying dependent solely to the US, Manila had been improving defence ties with countries such as Britain and India as well as Australia.
British Ambassador Daniel Pruce had been quoted as saying on Tuesday that the UK and the Philippines is working towards the conduct if joint military exercises between forces of the two countries. He said that officials from the Philippines’ Department of National Defence and the UK’s Defence Ministry are expected to meet in March to discuss the joint drills.
The Philippines had also been looking at the UK to modernise its military.
Both countries had signed last December 2019 an implementing agreement that provides the guidelines and procedures on government-to-government procurement of weapons and other hardware.
“Over the recent years, defence firms from the United Kingdom continue to express interest in providing support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernisation Programme, said Defence Undersecretary Jesus Rey Avila.
Aside from the UK, the Philippines is also looking at improving its defence ties with India.
Late last month, Philippines and India representatives met in Makati City for the third Philippines-India Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) meeting.
The JDCC serves as an important mechanism for both countries to implement the 2006 agreement between the Philippines and India concerning defence cooperation.
According to an article in The Diplomat, engagement between the Philippines and India had been increasing.
Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Philippines is serious in its plans to purchase from India, an initial two batteries of Brahmos missiles, an advanced cruise missile system.
India had also been regularly sending ship contingents to joint regional exercises.
Aside the Philippines also has a Status of Forces Visiting Agreement with Australia.