Pimentel: Senate panel to review VFA, other PH-US military treaties
MANILA, Philippines — A Senate panel is set to review the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and other military treaties between the Philippines and the United States following the threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate the VFA.
Emerging from an “urgent meeting” among members of the Senate foreign relations committee on Wednesday, panel chair Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said they will also review the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
“Kailangan mag-formal hearing na po yung committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement or matters related to it, especially in relation to the latest pronouncement of the President that he is possibly terminating it after 30 days,” Pimentel told reporters.
Last January 23, the President gave the U.S. government 30 days to rectify the visa cancellation of his political ally, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, or else he would abrogate the VFA.
The VFA, which took effect in 1999, covers the conduct of visiting American soldiers in the Philippines and serves as a foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the U.S.
“But the consensus was there must be a resolution filed first to be referred to the committee and I heard that not less than two senators are filing resolutions anyway, mag-schedule na po tayo ng hearing next week,” Pimentel went on.
“Narinig ko dun sa mga senators who will file, ang topic is VFA, EDCA, MDT so yung tatlong yun mapapagusapan na po natin. Number one ano na ang benefits na nakuha ng Pilipinas dito? What is the national interest at stake in these agreements, is the national interest still present up to today?” he added.
While the President has the power to terminate treaties, Pimentel said the Executive department seems to still want to consult the Senate on the matter.
“As I understand the Constitution, the power to terminate treaties entered into by the Philippines belongs to the President…But the power to enter, iba yon…the Senate concurs bago maging valid and effective ang treaty,” he said.
“Nakita naman natin yung attitude ng executive branch, gusto nilang konsultahin ang Senate e, ang foreign relations committee. So we expect their full cooperation,” he added.
The senator said the committee would invite officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of National Defense (DND) and the National Security Council.
“Experts should be before us so we can ask them questions and they can give us answers we can rely on,” he said.
After the hearing, Pimentel said the committee would submit a report to the plenary for deliberations.
“Plenary debates ulit kami, discussion over the report,” he said.
“After the hearing, let us say ma-adjourn yung hearing. We have sufficient information then we write a report then give time for the other senators, who are not member s of the committee, to participate in the plenary,” he added.
Edited by MUF
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