Malacañang on Monday said the Covid-19 vaccine donations of the US played a part in President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to retain the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Duterte decided to keep the military-to-military pact during a meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

In a Palace briefing, Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s decision was based on national interest.

“Siguro po iyong mga totality ng mga pangyayari recently at saka iyong thorough assessment of what constitutes the national interest prompted him to withdraw his earlier termination,” Roque said.

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

Roque said there was “a good possibility” that the president also considered the vaccine donations of the US.

The Philippines has received at least 3.2 million doses of vaccine donations from the US.

The country has also received more than 10 million doses from the Covax facility. The US is the top donor to Covax.

The VFA allows US troop presence in the country for exercises and training.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Philippines-US mutual defense treaty. John Ezekiel J. Hirro