President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to delay for six more months the abrogation of the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr. said on Monday.

The VFA allows American soldiers to participate in military exercises in the country.

The Philippines was set to revoke the VFA in February 2020 but Duterte suspended its abrogation in June and November last year.

In a video posted by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Locsin said the president wanted to study “concerns regarding particular aspects of the agreement.”

The foreign affairs chief did not expound on what aspects Duterte was scrutinizing: “We are waiting for guidance from the Palace on the specific areas the president would like to look more closely into.”

In December 2020, Duterte asserted that unless the US provides the Philippines with vaccines, he would terminate the VFA.

Washington has pledged Covid-19 vaccines to the Philippines and assured that it would be one of the priority countries in its vaccine distribution.

The Philippines has received 2,472,210 American-made Covid-19 vaccines from the Covax facility so far.

The Department of National Defense said that Duterte’s decision to suspend the VFA termination for another six months had its full support.

“Our bilateral cooperation with the US is geared towards upholding our national interest and to the extent necessary to enhance the Philippines’ defense capability,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.

The US Embassy in Manila also expressed support for Duterte’s decision.

“Our alliance continues to contribute not only to the security of our two nations, but also strengthens the rules-based order that benefits all nations in the Indo-Pacific,” it said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro