MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to meet with United States (US) Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Thursday.

In a press statement issued Wednesday, the Palace confirmed that Austin will pay a courtesy call on Duterte upon his arrival in the Philippines.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is scheduled to receive United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in a courtesy call in Malacañang on 29 July 2021,” it said.

Austin is on a three-nation swing through Southeast Asia, making stops in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines to bolster the US’ ties with them.
He will stay in the Philippines for an official visit until Friday.

The US official’s visit to Manila highlights the 75th founding anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the US, as well as the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the two nations’ Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Malacañang said.

The Philippines and the US established their formal diplomatic relations on July 4, 1946.
MDT, inked by Manila and Washington on August 30, 1951, aims to boost the defense and security cooperation between them.

The Palace said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje are expected to attend the courtesy call.

On Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines’ “debt of gratitude” to the US might persuade Duterte to reconsider the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a 1998 military pact inked by the two countries which allows US troops to join military drills in Manila sans the need to secure passports and visa.

Duterte on Feb. 11, 2020 revoked the VFA.

The VFA was supposed to be effectively scrapped in August last year, but its termination was postponed for the third time after Duterte in June this year extended its validity for six more months. (PNA)