Makati Business Club ‘concerned’ about VFA termination impact

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Makati Business Club �concerned� about VFA termination impact
President Donald Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Philippine International Convention Center on Nov. 13, 2017, in Manila, Philippines.
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

MANILA, Philippines — The Makati Business Club is concerned the government’s move to cut military ties with the US will compromise the Philippines’ economy and security.

“Strong ties with the US are important for both economic and security reasons…We are therefore concerned about the notice of cancelation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)…,” the business group said in a statement on Friday.

Last week, President Duterte ordered the Foreign Affairs department to begin the process of terminating the VFA, the 1999 security pact between the Philippines and the US, which, among others, governs the presence of American troops in the country. The termination will take effect 180 days after the US received a notice from the Philippines sent last Feb. 12.

Duterte’s move to end the VFA was in response to a US decision to rescind the visa privileges of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a key administration ally.

In terminating the VFA, Duterte went against recommendations of his top advisers Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, who called instead for a “rigorous review” of the agreement.

Foremost of MBC’s concerns is how VFA’s abrogation “may affect other security arrangements.” While the business group did not go into specifics, Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo had said the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the overarching Mutual Defense Treaty with the US may also be scrapped.

EDCA is an executive agreement that essentially supplements the VFA to allow rotational movement of US military assets in local bases. The MDT, like the VFA, is a treaty that calls on either US or the Philippines to back each other when under threat. 

Senators are eyeing to question Duterte’s unilateral decision to cancel the VFA. They said legislators at the Upper House must be allowed to give concurrence to the move, similar to how they approve treaties. 

“Over decades they (US) have brought in investments, jobs, infrastructure, and aid. They have also been critical in providing training and support to our military in their fight against terrorism, insurgency, and other threats, as well as in responding to natural disasters,” MBC said.

Earlier, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has called Malacanang’s decision to abrogate the VFA “unfortunate” and “a move in the wrong direction” at a time Washington is mustering international pressure on China, while the Philippines struggles to contain an ongoing terrorist insurgency.

“(We) hope that this paves the way for discussions between the Philippines and the US on ways to eliminate the negative factors but preserve its economic benefits,” it added.

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