LIVE: Senate panel reviews military agreements with the US
(Philstar.com) - February 6, 2020 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is holding a hearing on Thursday morning to review the Philippines' military agreements with the US, its longtime ally and former colonizer.

The review was prompted by President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement that he would terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement if the US does not "correct" the cancellation of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa's visa.

Believed related to alleged extrajudicial killings in the "war on drugs" and to the continued detention of Sen. Leila De Lima, the Philippine government has called the cancellation of Dela Rosa's visa a violation of Philippine sovereignty.

Duterte has since said that he has already decided to terminate the VFA although the Presidential Commission on the VFA has also conducted an impact assessment that it will submit to the president this week.

Senators, including Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, have asked the president to hold off on deciding on the VFA while the Senate conducts a review of it and of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Although Senate concurrence is needed in ratifying treaties, the president can terminate them without their assent. 

Past opposition to VFA

Dela Rosa's visa aside, there have been constant calls to scrap the VFA—as well as the MDT and EDCA—over the years. National democratic activist groups have brought opposition to the military agreements to the streets and to the Supreme Court saying they favor America and do not make the Philippines safer.

READ: Beyond Bato's US visa: A look at issues previously raised against VFA

The country's Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia has been held up as a possible "benchmark for future bilateral or multilateral arrangements of a similar nature" because of provisions on jurisdiction over troops and on resolving issues of that jurisdiction.

Rep. Loren Legarda (Antique), when she sponsored the SOVFA while chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also pointed out that the agreement has a specific provision on environmental protection.

READ: A better VFA? A look at the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia 

Effects?

The Palace has said that scrapping the VFA will not affect the EDCA and the MDT but analysts disagree with this assertion by presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Jose Antonio Custodio, a military historian and defense analyst, said ending the VFA would "undo" EDCA.

"Because VFA is a [Status of Forces Agreement]. It governs the legality of US military presence in [the Philippines]," Custodio told Philstar.com.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, meanwhile said terminating the VFA could 'suspend' the Mutual Defense Treaty.

READ: VFA termination could scrap EDCA, suspend Mutual Defense Treaty — analysts

Watch the hearing LIVE starting 10 a.m. on Thursday, February 6, 2020.

ENHANCED DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
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