Duterte firm on VFA termination
“When it comes to the VFA, what was suspended was the process of termination. The President has no new decision when it comes to the termination,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.
Presidential Photo/Yancy Lim
Duterte firm on VFA termination
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has not changed his mind about terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Malacañang said yesterday, as it clarified that only the termination process of the treaty has been suspended.

“When it comes to the VFA, what was suspended was the process of termination. The President has no new decision when it comes to the termination,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.

“He did not say that the termination would no longer push through so the President has not changed his mind,” he added.

The VFA, which was signed by the Philippines and the US in 1998, allows Filipino and American forces to hold joint trainings in the Philippines.

The Senate ratified the treaty in 1999 despite concerns that it would violate Philippine sovereignty.

Last January, Duterte announced that he is terminating the VFA because of the cancellation of the US visa of his political ally and former police chief Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.

Officials, however, claimed that the issue on Dela Rosa’s visa was just one of the reasons that prompted the President to scrap the treaty.

They cited the US Senate resolution condemning the alleged human rights violations in the Philippines; the demand of some American senators to free detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima and the US travel ban against persons responsible for her detention.?Last Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that the President has ordered the suspension of the VFA termination process.

The following day, Locsin said the coronavirus pandemic and “heightened superpower tensions” prompted Duterte to make the decision.

Roque said the suspension of the termination of VFA has nothing to do with the anti-terrorism bill that is moving in Congress.

He said the VFA and other security agreements with other allies are important at a time when the world is facing terrorist threats.

“The face of terrorism has changed. It does not have any border and does not side with any country. All our allies – America, China, Russia, India, Australia – all of them are important,” the Palace spokesman said.

The Army welcomed the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA with the United States.

Army chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay said that this decision will help efforts as the country continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Philippine Army welcomes the decision to suspend the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which will spur the continuance of mutual defense and cooperation between the two countries, especially in our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gapay said in a statement.

He stressed the long-established relationship between the two states, anchored on the Mutual Defense Treaty.

He noted that the Army is continually working with its counterparts from the United States, especially on training and capacity building.  Romina Cabrera, Artemio Dumlao

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