Military agreement with other countries may be considered — Guevarra
In this file handout photo from May 2019, Australian and Philippine troops meet for the Philippines-Australia Army to Army Exercise 2019.
Handout photo

Military agreement with other countries may be considered — Guevarra

Kristine Joy Patag ( - February 12, 2020 - 5:09pm

MANILA, Philippines — With the termination of the military agreement with the United States, the Philippines may consider entering into Visiting Forces Agreement with other countries, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

In a message to reporters Wednesday, Guevarra said during the meeting of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces, “it was mentioned... that we may consider having similar VFAs with other countries to continue the training of our military personnel.”

Asked if China is being considered as a potential partner for a military agreement, Guevarra said: “More like Australia.”

The Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia was signed in 2007 and ratified in 2012.

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

Commission on Visiting Forces had 'differing views' on VFA termination

Guevarra, a member of the PCVF, was tasked by Malacañang with reviewing the potential impact of scrapping the VFA with the United States, which sets guidelines on the jurisdiction of American troops in Philippine territory and vice versa.

The Justice chief refused to divulge the recommendation of the PCVF after its risk assessment of the termination of the military pact with the US, but he said that members of the PCVF had “differing views.”

He said that the commission yielded to “the president’s sound judgment.”

“Whether we supported the president’s position or recommended another option is now water under the bridge. But one thing is clear; the president had everything he needed to know before he made up his mind to terminate the VFA,” Guevarra added.

The Philippines sent the notice of termination of the agreement to the US on Tuesday, a move that US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said is a step towards “the wrong direction.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. told senators at a hearing last week that without the VFA and the EDCA, the Mutual Defense Treaty "may be compared to a deflated balloon." 

"For all practical purposes, it becomes an extra large rubber for our nation—far more elastic than it can ever need for its purpose and more suitable as a shower cap than a prophylactic against foreign aggression," Locsin said then.

Guevarra said the "termination of the VFA will make the [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement] practically useless and the [Mutual Defense Treaty] a hollow agreement."

He, however, is optimistic that the Philippines can weather the effects of the scrapped military pact with the US.

"We survived the historic termination of the RP-US military bases agreement; there's no reason why we shall not survive the termination of a mere visiting forces agreement."

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: December 9, 2020 - 12:39pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which will expire 180 days after the notice of termination is sent to the US.

That notice was sent on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, according to Philippine government officials.

Duterte had previously warned the United States that he will terminate the VFA if the cancellation of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa's US visa—believed but not confirmed to have been over the continued detention of Sen. Leila De Lima and the government's "war on drugs"—is not "corrected".

The decision to terminate comes amid a resolution by the Senate recognizing the president's authority to terminate agreements and treaties but also asking him to hold off on the decision while lawmakers conduct a review of the VFA and other agreements with America.

Activist groups have been calling on the government to scrap the deal since 1999, saying the Visiting Forces Agreement favors the US, keeps the Philippine military dependent on assistance and aid, and puts the Philippines at risk from America's enemies.

Main photo: In this May 19, 2018 file photo, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat and US Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley lead the ceremonial furling of the Balikatan flag during the closing ceremony of the Philippine-US military exercises. The STAR/Boy Santos

December 9, 2020 - 12:39pm

The US defense department has boostedthe Armed Forces of the Philippines' counter-terrorism capability with new equipment, the US Embassy in Manila says.

The capability upgrade is among the P1.4-billion ($29.3 million) in defense articles recently transferred to the AFP, Acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller tells senior Philippine military officials as he met with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Tuesday in Manila.

In a statement provided by the US Embassy, Miller stresses the importance of the US-Philippine alliance to national and regional security.

Miller says the defense articles that were turned over last December 2 were transferred to several special mission units of the AFP to support its modernization goals.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) lauded the capability, especially the anti-Improvised Explosive Device equipment, which will form part of force protection noting that in the recent campaign troops have engaged terrorists rigging IEDs in its attacks.  — The STAR/Roel Pareño

November 12, 2020 - 11:51am

"We welcome the Government of the Philippines’ November 11 decision to suspend termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for another six months," the US Embassy says in a statement to mdia.

"The U.S.-Philippines alliance remains vital to our robust, deep-rooted bilateral relationship. The United States will continue to partner closely with the Philippines to strengthen our mutual security ties."

November 11, 2020 - 3:08pm

The Philippines extends the suspension of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States for another six months.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to extend the VFA abrogation “to enable us to find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement on how to move forward in our mutual defense.”

June 3, 2020 - 9:16am

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will consult with the Office of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces on issues that need to be addressed on the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA with the United States.

According to Lorenzana, the country's defense establishment is ready to continue working with the US on common concerns, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In times of crises and global uncertainty, it is our belief that nations are only made stronger if we work together and focus our efforts on tackling the various challenges that confront us all," Lorenzana says in a statement.

June 2, 2020 - 8:24pm

The Philippines has suspended the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US "in light of political and other developments" in the region, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says.

According to a diplomatic note that Locsin posted on his Twitter account, "the suspension shall start on even date and shall continue for six months" that the Philippines can extend for another six months.

The Philippines formally informed the US on February 11 that it is ending the VFA. Termination would have been effective 180 days from receipt of the notice.

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