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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stressed the value of the assistance received by the Philippines from the United States as the Senate deliberated Thursday (February 6) about President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

During the Senate foreign relations committee’s hearing, Lorenzana said the US can always be relied on to help the Philippines in times of calamities.

He recalled that when typhoon Yolanda struck in November 2013, it was a US carrier which arrived first in the country to help since the Philippine military lacked assets to bring relief goods to the victims.

“The airport was destroyed and it will take time for our ships to go there,” Lorenzana said.

“They were very helpful during calamities, especially Haiyan and landslides. The US forces are always there in times of calamities. The troops deployed in Okinawa are ready to help us anytime,” he added.

Lorenzana said the US has given the Philippines around $1.3 billion in assistance since 1998. He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines received the biggest grant in 2017 at $219 million.

When Senator Richard Gordon asked if ending the VFA will be in the country’s best interest at this time, Lorenzana said: “We should have at least our minimum deterrent capability. Whether we need the VFA indefinitely, I think we do not need VFA indefinitely so we should use the interim to build up our capabilities.”

Duterte threatened to terminate the VFA last month after Senator Ronald Dela Rosa confirmed his US visa had been cancelled by the US government.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr., however, said he has yet to send the notice of termination to the US because there’s no order yet from Duterte.

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