In this file photo taken in May 2018, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat of the Northern Luzon Command and Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson of the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force unfurl the Balikatan flag during the opening ceremony of the Philippines-US Exercise 2018 at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City yesterday.
The STAR/Krizjohn Rosales, file
Trillanes: VFA serves Philippines' national interest
none (Philstar.com) - January 29, 2020 - 12:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States is not perfect, but it serves the country’s national interest, said former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, also a former member of the Philippine Navy.

In a statement Wednesday, Trillanes called on the officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to “stop the whimsical, reckless and very damaging abrogation of the VFA.”

Duterte threatened the termination of the VFA if the US will not “correct,” in a month, the cancellation of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa, which the Palace claimed is the “last straw” in the president’s decision.

READ: 'Not on a whim': Duterte's VFA decision was studied, Palace says

The president has ordered the Justice department to conduct a “preliminary impact assessment” on possible abrogation of the agreement.

But Trillanes said that while imperfect, the VFA “is both a national security policy and a foreign policy."

The former Navy stressed that the VFA “has been in place for more than 20 years now, simply because it serves our national interest.”

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Trillanes noted that the VFA allows the AFP to be updated on the “latest developments in modern warfare” and have modern equipment and traning.

Through the agreement, “the AFP and US forces get to have interoperability exercises which are essential to future joint operations.” This also “fosters goodwill and camaraderie among the Ph-US soldiers,” Trillanes added.

He also said that “the AFP gets critical [intelligence] from their US counterparts that greatly helps in our counter-terrorism operations.”

Former Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. earlier said that VFA was crucial in the modernization of the AFP.

“[W]e also need the training of our military forces. Our own military officials have said that they appreciate the training of the US military to our socials,” Cuisia said in an interview with ANC.

The former Philippine envoy also noted that the agreement between the Philippines and the US gives allies assurance.

“As far as our allies are concerned, the fact that they know that the PH has this agreement with the US gives them assurance because they are a stabilizing factor in the region,” Cuisia noted.

Trillanes also noted this and said that the VFA “cements the long history of alliance and partnership between PH and US” and protects power at regional level.

The former senator also pointed out that the Philippines “benefits from the highly efficient humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations conducted by the US forces during times of calamities.”

In 2017 Balikatan exercise, Philippine and US forces focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster responses, due to the inevitable typhoons and disasters in the country. — Kristine Joy Patag

ANTONIO TRILLANES PH-US RELATIONS UNITED STATES VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
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