The United States could also take the opportunity to renegotiate a new, better-value agreement with the Philippines – one that meets President Duterte`s goal of being strong against the United States and the other that gives President Trump the opportunity to mark another important deal, this time a defense deal, with its unique footprint that could advance U.S. interests for years. Although Duterte threatened to reject U.S. forces in 2016, he also clearly benefits from U.S. military assistance in those operations – and Manila may need more support since 11 of its soldiers have just been killed in the fight against the Terrorist Group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The VFA was also important to allow the U.S. military to enter the Philippines in 2013 to provide humanitarian and disaster assistance after Typhoon Haiyan. U.S. security assistance over the past two decades of the VFA`s existence has been considerable and has yielded about $1.3 billion, and annual exercises such as balikate – although this year cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic – greatly increase the Philippine military`s willingness to conduct a series of missions. Indeed, decades of close cooperation between the U.S. and Philippine militaries have led to very favorable views of the United States under the Philippine defense establishment, while China is considered the greatest threat. Although Duterte threatened to outsmart U.S.
forces in 2016, he clearly benefits from U.S. military assistance in counterterrorism operations. The Philippines-U.S. Visiting Agreement, sometimes the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement, is a bilateral agreement between the Philippines and the United States, which consists of two separate documents. The first of these documents is commonly referred to as “VFA” or “VFA-1″ and the second is referred to as “VFA-2” or “counterparty agreement.”  A Visiting Forces Agreement is a version of an agreement on the status of the armed forces that applies only to troops temporarily stationed in a country. The agreements entered into force on 27 May 1999, after ratification by the Philippine Senate.    The U.S. government considers these documents to be executive agreements that do not require the approval of the U.S. Senate.   Apart from this reading of tea leaves, Duterte may not, in principle, have the sole discretion to decide the fate of the VFA.