Ending VFA would make PH pivot to China possible: ex-DFA chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2020 08:44 PM

US soldiers take photos as a US military aircraft takes off in Cagayancillo, Palawan during the Balikatan Exercises on April 11, 2016. Dante Diosina Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said President Rodrigo Duterte's recent statements about terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States would make the Philippines' pivot towards China possible.

In a statement, Del Rosario said aside from showing the country's shift towards China, terminating the VFA would also affect the implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines.

"Without the VFA, making the MDT work would be more challenging, especially since we now have specific external threats as well as more devastating natural calamities," he said.

He also said the quick response by the US during the onslaught of Yolanda in 2013 was possible because of the VFA.

"If we may recall, the quick US relief response during the Yolanda disaster was made possible by the VFA. Other countries wanted to immediately respond but were constrained by the lack of legal arrangements for their troops to enter the Philippines. At its peak, the US military efforts included more than 13,000 military personnel, 66 aircraft and 12 naval vessels. The US delivered more than 2,500 tons of relief supplies and evacuated over 21,000 people," Del Rosario explained.

Should the VFA between the US and the Philippines be terminated, Del Rosario said the country's shift towards China will be actualized.

"Terminating the VFA would serve to actualize our pivot towards China against the strong and vehement objections of our people," he said.

For Del Rosario, Duterte should instead accept President Donald Trump's invitation and talk about improving both the VFA and the MDT.

"Should our President wish to improve the MDT and the VFA, he may wish to accept the invitation to meet President Trump. This would present an excellent opportunity for our President to place on the table his full expectations pertaining to our bilateral relations," he explained.

Duterte on Thursday threatened to terminate the VFA after Washington canceled the visa of his former police chief, Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

On Friday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the process of terminating said agreement has already started.

The VFA came into force in 1999 and covers the conduct of American soldiers in the Philippines.

It is among military agreements between the Philippines and the US, which also includes the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows greater rotational presence of US troops in the country; and the Mutual Defense Treaty which requires one country to defend the other in case of an attack on its territory.

Under the VFA, the accord will only be deemed terminated 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party a notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement.

In 2016, the President also threatened to repeal the VFA, declaring "bye-bye America," and we don't need your money.

- with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News