Duterte`s cabinet also appear to have serious reservations about his VFA decision. They tried to discuss their concerns with him cautiously, but they understood that they probably will not change their minds. In order to make their views more attractive, they probably tried to emphasize the importance of the VFA for maintaining assistance to U.S. special forces in the fight against terrorist operations in the southern Philippines against the jihadists. For many American observers, the fact that most of the criminals charged are ultimately charged in a local court and convicted that the system works; for some observers in the host country, it reinforces the perception that the VFA protects the culprits and makes the exceptions more egregious. « It is indeed the right of the Philippine government to do so if it finds that the agreement is no longer in our national interest, » Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said on 24 January. As a contract for the execution of the VFA, EDCA authorizes the prepositioning of war materials on approved sites. This includes strengthening the modernization capabilities of the Philippine armed forces. READ: The pH of the military pact with the UNITED States) Although Duterte threatened to reject U.S. forces in 2016, he also clearly benefits from U.S. military assistance in those operations – and Manila may need more support since 11 of its soldiers have just been killed in the fight against the Terrorist Group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The VFA was also important to allow the U.S.
military to enter the Philippines in 2013 to provide humanitarian and disaster assistance after Typhoon Haiyan. U.S. security assistance over the past two decades of the VFA`s existence has been considerable and has yielded about $1.3 billion, and annual exercises such as balikate – although this year cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic – greatly increase the Philippine military`s willingness to conduct a series of missions. Indeed, decades of close cooperation between the U.S. and Philippine militaries have led to very favorable views of the United States under the Philippine defense establishment, while China is considered the greatest threat. Under Article V of the agreement, the custody of U.S. personnel whose case falls under Philippine jurisdiction must « immediately reside with the U.S. military authorities if they wish » from the time the crime was committed, until all legal proceedings are completed. However, U.S. military authorities make the accused available to the Philippine authorities « in a timely manner for investigations or judicial proceedings related to the offence. » But the VFA, the last iteration of which was originally ratified in 1999, plays a fundamental role in normal military activities within the Alliance`s boundaries.