THE United States on Thursday said it would keep close ties with the Philippines after Manila extended the suspension of a military pact on the deployment of troops for war games.

“The US-Philippine alliance remains vital to our robust, deep-rooted bilateral relationship,” the US Embassy said in a statement. “The United States will continue to partner closely with the Philippines to strengthen our mutual security ties.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. on Wednesday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte had ordered that the suspension of the visiting forces agreement with the US be extended for six more months.

The extension would allow the Philippines to find a “more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement.”

President Duterte had ordered the termination of the VFA in February after the US Embassy canceled the visa of Senator Ronald M. dela Rosa, his former police chief who led his deadly war on drugs.

The termination, which would have taken effect after 180 days, was suspended in June due to heightened tension in the Asia-Pacific region and the coronavirus pandemic.

The Foreign Affairs department earlier said the termination of the VFA would take effect after 69 days, if the suspension was not extended.

The VFA, which allows the US to shield its servicemen from prosecution in the Philippines, has been a thorny issue for Filipino patriots who see it as a lopsided deal. The US has used the VFA at least twice to keep accused soldiers under its jurisdiction. — Charmaine A. Tadalan