Duterte House ally says VFA key to PH security but Reds back move to scrap it
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A Mindanao lawmaker allied with President Rodrigo Duterte expressed alarm over Duterte’s push to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States even as communist rebels supported the President’s move to scrap the pact.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said although it was well within Duterte’s powers to junk the VFA, such a move would be “inimical to our national interest and security.”
Duterte announced he would scrap the VFA in anger over the cancellation of the US visa of one of his closest allies, Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who was also Duterte’s first Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.
Rodriguez said sustaining the military accord with the US was important for the Philippines because of its ongoing territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.
“At a time when we have a territorial conflict with China on our Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] in the West Philippine Sea, this should be the last thing that our President should do,” Rodriguez said in a statement released on Saturday (Jan. 25) yet.
He said China continued to enforce its debunked nine-dash-line claim in the disputed area, which had been declared illegal and “without basis” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
Rodriguez said China continued to harass Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal, which is inside the Philippines’ EEZ and tried to prevent the resupply of the Philippine Navy vessel BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, which is also inside the Philippines’ EEZ.
Rodriguez said the VFA offers protection to the Philippines because it obligates the US military to help the Philippines in case the situation in WPS escalate into a shooting war.
“Only the United States under our Mutual Defense Treaty and VFA can come to our defense in case our vessels are attacked in the South China Sea which is considered an extension of the Pacific Ocean,” he added.
Rodriguez said while the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa, which would bar him from entry into the US, was uncalled for, “it can be reconsidered through diplomatic channels.”
“I hope the good President will reconsider this move,” the congressman said.
Communist rebels appeared to be celebrating Duterte’s rant against the VFA.
In a separate statement issued on Sunday (Jan. 26), the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) challenged Duterte to “walk the talk” and proceed with junking the VFA.
“For decades, the Filipino people have demanded the abrogation of the VFA which has allowed the trampling of Philippine sovereignty by US military forces, as well as numerous human rights violations, including rape and murder,” the CPP said in a statement posted on its
“The Filipino people are keenly aware of Duterte’s tirades against the US government while playing up to China and Russia with the aim of being prized with economic and military aid,” it added.
The CPP said the people must vigorously push Duterte to abolish the VFA and other “unequal military treaties” and to call for the pullout of all foreign troops from Philippine soil.
The human rights group Karapatan urged Duterte to end “all US military and police aid to the Philippine government and the various US functions with Philippine State security forces that exacerbate the human rights crisis besetting the country.”
The revocation of the VFA, along with other “lopsided military agreements such as the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty and the US-RP Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” is a long-overdue move to assert the country’s national sovereignty, said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general in a statement also on Sunday.