BREAK: Palace ally assails gov’t threat to scrap VFA
MANILA, Philippines — House Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, minced no words in expressing his disapproval of the administration’s threat to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
At the hearing of the House committee on foreign affairs, attended by some officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Pimentel chided the government for it’s “impulsive” and “knee-jerk” reaction to what must be a legitimate exercise of the US of its visa laws.
Duterte earlier threatened to scrap the VFA if the US will not “rectify” the revocation of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s US visa.
“We all know that one of the reasons, if not the main reason why this administration would like to scrap or revoke (the VFA) is because of the cancellation (of the visa of) one senator. Are we going to sacrifice the gains that we have made with the US-Philippine relationship just because of the cancellation of a visa of one senator?” Pimentel said.
The lawmaker cited the case of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former foreign affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario who were barred from entering Hong Kong on separate occasions in 2019, saying that the government did not defend “these two very important government officials.”
“But here comes a senator whose visa was canceled and we are going to scrap a very important agreement,” he said.
“We know that the reason is because of one senator but what about the hundred million people that could be affected by this impulsive reaction?” he asked.
Pimentel also questioned DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin on his stand on the matter. Locsin, however, was not present during the hearing.
“What is really the stand of secretary regarding the—is he in favor of scrapping the VFA? For that matter, the DFA itself, ano bang stand niyo dito? Or you still studying it or will you do some recommendations because this is a very important matter,” Pimentel said.
The solon also urged the DFA to be “very sober” in their recommendations to Duterte regarding the country’s move with regard to VFA.
“I know that the President will rely on your recommendations and you’re the people in the frontline so you should be very sober in recommending to the president what is the appropriate action of the Philippine government… I hope that you would not recommend a very foolish recommendation,” he said.
The PH-US agreement took effect in 1999 and covers the conduct of visiting American soldiers in the Philippines and serves as a foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the US.
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