MANILA, June 15 (Mabuhay) — US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday expressed appreciation for the support the Department of National Defense (DND) gave the Philippine government in its decision to suspend the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Esper and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had a conference call on Friday to discuss US-Philippines relations, the DND said in a press release.

The call occurred a week after Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte still wants the VFA terminated.

The Philippines delivered to the US government in February a notice of termination of the VFA, the treaty which governs the presence of US soldiers conducting military exercises in the country. However, this June, the Philippines suspended for six months the VFA’s termination.

Lorenzana earlier expressed support for the national government’s move to suspend the abrogation of the VFA, and said the DND is ready to continue working with its US counterparts to find solutions to common problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, during Friday’s conference call, Lorenzana thanked the US for its assistance and donations of medical supplies to help the Philippines address the COVID-19 threat.

Esper then said the US is willing to share with its allies and partners vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 once these are available.

The two defense officials also discussed the security situation in the South China Sea, including counterterrorism and logistics cooperation and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ capability upgrades.

Esper and Lorenzana then committed to continue the dialogue amid the pandemic and to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. (MNS)

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