Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has walked back on a decision to end a key military deal with the United States, his defence secretary said on Friday during a visit by Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.
Duterte told the United States in February last year he planned to axe the visiting forces agreement (VFA) after Washington cancelled the visa of a close ally who led his internationally condemned war on drugs.
The deal has been prolonged three times since then, most recently in June after months of negotiations between the two sides.
Philippine defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday the VFA was “in full force again”, during a news conference with Austin, who was in Manila on the last stop of a Southeast Asia tour.
“Last night, after the meeting between Secretary Austin and the president decided to recall or retract the termination letter for the VFA,” Lorenzana said, adding: “We are back on track”.
The 1998 VFA provides the legal framework for the US to hold joint military exercises and operations in the Philippines and is a key component of their decades-long alliance.