"The suspension shall start on even date and shall continue for six months, which period is extendible by the Philippines for another six months," after which the countdown to termination "shall resume," a June 1 letter by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr to the embassy of the U.S. in Manila said.
Locsin justified the decision due to the "political and other developments in the region," and that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) had been extended for at least six months as instructed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a statement on Tuesday, the U.S. embassy said it welcomed the Philippine government's decision. "Our long-standing alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines," it added.
The VFA was signed in 1999 between the two countries allowing temporary entry of U.S. troops to the Philippines for joint training exercises with Filipino forces.
The first announcement came as China-Philippines relations have experienced a turnaround since 2016 when Duterte verbally agreed to allow both nations access to fishing areas in each other’s controlled waters of the disputed sea.
The Chinese government refers to the relationship between the two countries as upgraded to “comprehensive strategic cooperation.” Both countries agreed to adhere to the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea. Chinese and Filipino officials say they will continue to cooperate on the One Belt, One Road initiative.