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VFA: The Philippines says it will not end the US military access agreement amid tensions in the South China Sea



Why it matters who owns the seas

President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to maintain the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) “in connection with political and other developments in the region,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a social media post Tuesday.

The agreement, signed in 1988, gave US military planes and ships free entry to the Philippines and relaxed visa restrictions for US military personnel.

The Philippine government gave 180 days notice to the US to end the agreement in February, indicating that Manila needs to rely on its own resources for its defense. On Tuesday, the US welcomed a change of heart.

“Our old alliance has benefited the two countries, and we hope to continue close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines,” said a statement from the US Embassy in Manila.

The Philippines was once home to two of America’s largest military bases outside the US: Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station.

Although it no longer became a US base in the early 1990s, US forces still have access to them under the VFA and Manila maintains strong military relations with Washington.

But over the past few years, Duterte has tilted his historical ties with the US and towards China, which has offered closer economic ties with Manila.

“I need China. More than anyone at this time, I need China,” Duterte said before flying to China in April 2018.

Compared with his predecessors, Duterte saw the ongoing Philippine disputes in the South China Sea as being more negotiable.

Both the Philippines and China are among several countries with overlapping sea claims, or parts of it. China claims almost all 1.3 million miles of the South China Sea as its own even though other complainants have borders that are much closer to disputed waters.

Last year, Duterte said he had been offered a controlling stake in a joint energy deal by Chinese President Xi Jinping in return for ignoring international arbitration in favor of Manila in the South China Sea.
In 2016, a court in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in a maritime dispute, concluding that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights over much of the South China Sea.

China, however, has increased its military presence on islands also claimed by Manila.

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In the past two months, the People’s Liberation Army has moved an advanced anti-submarine war and reconnaissance aircraft to Fiery Cross Reef, known as Kagitingan in the Philippines, in the Spratly Islands chain.

Beijing also made Fiery Cross a part of the southern Hainan province, creating two new administrative districts including the South China Sea headquartered in the Paracel Islands, another island group with disputed claims.

In addition, China has maintained the presence of maritime militia ships around Thitu Island, the largest Philippine occupation island in the Spratly islands, for more than a year, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

An average of 18 Chinese ships have traveled the island every day, according to an AMTI satellite analysis published in March, hampering Philippine efforts to build infrastructure there.

On Wednesday, Locsin indicated that the Philippines saw the US playing a role in the region for some time to come.

“We look forward to continuing our strong military partnership with the United States, even as we continue to reach out to our regional allies in building shared defense towards sustainable stability, peace and continued economic progress and prosperity in our part of the world,” he said.

Sophie Jeong from CNN contributed to this report.

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Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.



Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.

Method Media Bermuda will present the documentary FABRIC: Portuguese History in Bermuda on Thursday, December 29 at the Underwater Research Institute of Bermuda.

A spokesperson said: “Method Media is proud to bring Bermuda Fabric: Portugal History to Bermuda for its 5th and 6th showing at the Bermuda Underwater Observatory. In November and December 2019, Cloth: A Portuguese Story in Bermuda had four sold-out screenings. Now that Bermuda has reopened after the pandemic, it’s time to bring the film back for at least two screenings.

“There are tickets For $ 20 – sessions at 15:30 and 18:00. Both screenings will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Director and producer Milton Raboso says, “FABRIC is a definitive account of the Portuguese community in Bermuda and its 151 years of history, but it also places Bermuda, Acors and Portugal in the world history and the events that have fueled those 151 years.

“It took more than 10 years to implement FABRIC. The film was supported by the Minister of Culture, the Government of the Azores and private donors.

Bermuda Media Method [MMB] Created in 2011 by producer Milton Raposo. MMB has created content for a wide range of clients: Bermuda’s new hospital renovation, reinsurance, travel campaigns, international sports and more. MMB pays special attention to artistic, cultural and historical content.

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Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.



Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Maestro Filipe Cunha, Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Braga, has been invited to conduct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, as announced today.

According to a statement sent by O MINHO, “he will be the first Portuguese conductor to conduct this orchestra in its entire history.”

In addition to this orchestra, the maestro will also work with the Lyceo Mozarteum de la Habana Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts will take place on 4 and 12 March 2023 at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana.

In the words of the maestro, quoted in the statement, “these will be very beautiful concerts with difficult but very complex pieces” and therefore he feels “very motivated”.

From the very beginning, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will be performed by an Italian pianist (Luigi Borzillo), whom the maestro wants to bring to Portugal later this year. In the same concert, Mendelshon’s First Symphony will be performed.

Then, at the second concert, in the company of the Mexican clarinetist Angel Zedillo, he will perform the Louis Sfora Concerto No. 2. In this concert, the maestro also conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

“This is an international recognition of my work. An invitation that I accept with humility and great responsibility. I was surprised to learn that I would be the first Portuguese member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. This is a very great honor,” the maestro said in a statement.

“I take with me the name of the city of Braga and Portugal with all the responsibility that goes with it, and I hope to do a good job there, leaving a good image and putting on great concerts. These will be very special concerts because, in addition to performing pieces that I love, especially Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, I will be directing two wonderful soloists who are also my friends. It will be very beautiful,” concludes Filipe Cunha.

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