Pacquiao vows to strengthen VFA

Delon Porcalla, Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star
Pacquiao vows to strengthen VFA
Putting an emphasis on his rags to riches story, presidential aspirant sen. Manny Pacquiao launched the opening salvo of his campaign in his hometown, General Santos City on February 8 2020.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ 61-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States, along with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), would continue and be strengthened if Sen. Manny Pacquiao makes it to Malacañang, the presidential aspirant said yesterday.

“We will further strengthen the MDT and VFA,” Pacquiao told journalists who represent various foreign media entities that have been assigned to cover the Philippines, stressing that he would also seek the help of allied countries should the lives of Filipinos be endangered.

“We have to fight and do what we have to do. Let’s prepare the protection for our people from abuse and not let them be aggrieved,” he added, noting the country’s maritime row with China over the mineral-rich West Philippine Sea.

The world boxing champion, a presidential candidate representing Promdi political party, was a guest at a forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).

The VFA took effect in 1999, during the term of former president Joseph Estrada. This pact allows US servicemen to train and advise their Filipino military counterparts in disaster response, including the global fight against terrorism.

The MDT, on the other hand, was forged between Washington and Manila in 1951, when the two countries vowed to help each other if and when an armed attack is launched against either of them in the Pacific area.

Like fellow candidates, Pacquiao said he would be defending the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea without waging war against China. “We want to avoid conflict or war. It’s not the best idea,” he added.

Pacquiao also promised to support any move that would reopen or renew the legislative franchise of TV broadcast giant ABS-CBN after the House of Representatives shut down the network in May 2020 due to supposed franchise violations.

“I will support the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise if I win in the elections,” the boxing icon assured FOCAP. “And press freedom also, because this is very important to us Filipinos.”

The senator invoked Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

The National Telecommunications Commission shut down the Lopez-owned network in mid-2020 after the House rejected the family’s application to extend by another 25 years its legislative franchise. – Artemio Dumlao

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