Miriam to file resolution on immediate termination of VFA
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago will file tomorrow a joint resolution calling for the immediate termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, citing several alleged violations committed by the US on local and international laws.

Santiago presented her resolution before the media yesterday and spoke about it during a speaking engagement at the annual convention of the Philippine Academy of Medical Specialists Inc. where she called on all students to demand the scrapping of the VFA.

Santiago has long called for the termination of the VFA because it supposedly favors the US more than the Philippines and the numerous alleged violations committed by the American side of several laws and treaties.

“I charge that the US has failed to comply with and has violated Philippine law as well as international norms and customs on the protection and preservation of the environment,” she said.

Santiago was very vocal about the termination of the VFA during the controversy over the custody of American serviceman Daniel Smith who was accused of raping a Filipina on Philippine soil.

Smith was acquitted but local authorities never got custody of him during the entire judicial proceedings.

The renewed call by Santiago was brought about by the reported dumping of waste recently by a contractor of the US Navy in Subic Bay.

This environmental pollution of the country’s territorial waters, according to Santiago, is not only a violation of the local law on toxic substances, hazardous and nuclear waste control, but also of international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships or the so-called MARPOL convention.

Santiago also cited the violation of the terms of the VFA itself by the US for having a permanent presence of American troops in the country, particularly in the Zamboanga region.

“In Zamboanga, both local media and international media know that they’re not visiting there. They’re staying there. They don’t have to construct a permanent structure there. As long as there is a permanent military presence, that is a base. They are not visiting, they are squatting,” Santiago said.

She said American troops have constantly been in the country for 13 years already and they have been misleading the people about the nature of their visit.

“So from the standpoint of legality alone, the VFA violates not only our own domestic law but also international law and it is violating what is called a peremptory norm of international law... which is a manner of describing a rule of international law which has no exceptions at all,” Santiago said.

In the resolution, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs is directed to give notice of the termination of the VFA to the US government.

Santiago has long maintained the Philippine government could unilaterally terminate the VFA without the need to provide any explanation.

“Under the VFA, neither the Philippines nor the US needs to cite a basis or to comply with any prerequisite to terminate the agreement,” Santiago said.

“One party will simply notify the other in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement. This joint resolution will be treated as a bill passed by the two chambers of Congress,” she added.

Santiago said Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello would file the counterpart resolution in the House of Representatives tomorrow.

While Santiago believes the Senate alone could already pass the resolution for the termination of the VFA since it has the mandate under the Constitution to ratify treaties, she argued it might be better to bring in the House of Representatives on this matter “since we are talking about the government of the Philippines.”

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