VFA termination
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - February 14, 2020 - 12:00am

It's official. President Duterte ordered DFA Sec. Locsin to send the documents informing America that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries has been ended. After weeks of speculation about whether to cancel the agreement because of the cancellation of Sen. Bato dela Rosa's US visa, it was made official. Duterte added that he would not listen to any requests from US President Trump about reinstating the VFA. Initial reports say that President Trump is "fine" with the cancellation as it will save them money.

This happened while the Senate is still in the process of asking the Supreme Court whether the agreement could be canceled without the Senate's involvement. The Senate voted to implement the VFA then. According to Senate President Sotto, they will file the petition. But nowadays it seems that only one person is calling all the shots.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Santos agrees with Duterte's decision. The military can survive without a VFA from America. No surprises there. General Santos himself said that Duterte doubled the soldiers' wages and always praised all their encounters so why would they be angry? Cabinet members naturally agreed with the president, stating we do not need the VFA. According to Justice Sec. Guevarra both the EDCA and MDT would be deemed useless without the VFA. So it seems that we may no longer have a military agreement with America, our oldest ally. What about what people want? Or is that even important anymore nowadays?

America has 180 days to respond to the termination of the VFA by Duterte. But judging by the comment of US Defense Secretary who said it is a "step in the wrong direction" especially as America urges all countries in the region to oppose China's militarization of the region, a debate may ensue with Trump who thinks it is just "fine." The Philippines is still America's oldest ally in the region. The people still trust the Americans over anybody else. If Duterte will not listen to Trump in the case of the VFA, then the alliance would be pointless. What will China now do, which I'm sure is delighted at this development? Will America stop its freedom of navigation and overflights in our area because apparently, Duterte doesn't want them? Will China make a move on Panatag Shoal? What about the BRP Sierra Madre? Is it now in peril of being towed away? According to the AFP, it is still possible to have exercises with other countries such as Japan and Australia, which happen to be allies of America. I don't see the logic of terminating a military agreement with a long-standing ally and then trying to forge one with another country. Like turning your back on a friend to make a new one.


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