US PRESIDENT Joseph R. Biden wants to meet President Rodrigo R. Duterte, as a military pact on the deployment of troops between the two nations hangs in the balance.

The US President had written to the tough-talking leader, assuring him that strong ties between the two countries would continue, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said at a taped briefing.

Mr. Duterte had sought closer trade and investment ties with China away from its former colonizer as soon as he assumed the post in 2016. Mr. Duterte had also criticized the US for what he claimed was its ill treatment of its former colony.

The two countries, which will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations next month, earlier concluded bilateral discussions.

His spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. earlier said the President had not decided whether to keep the visiting forces agreement (VFA) with the US.

Mr. Duterte in February last year said he would end the VFA after the US Embassy canceled the visa of his friend Senator Ronald M. de la Rosa, who led his deadly war on drugs as his former police chief.

Meanwhile, Mr. Romualdez said America’s donation of coronavirus vaccines had no strings attached.

Mr. Romualdez said Washington would announce this week the distribution of the first batch of vaccines that it will donate to the Philippines.

The Philippine envoy earlier said the US would donate its excess supply of the shots made by Moderna, Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc.

“It’s actually free,” Mr. Romualdez said. “It’s part of the help that they’re giving to allies like the Philippines and other countries.”

He said Mr. Biden was seeking to hold talks with Southeast Asian leaders in Brunei this November. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza