Senators laud Duterte’s decision to halt termination of VFA
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Wednesday lauded the suspension of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) termination, with one lawmaker even underscoring the importance of the military accord between the Philippines and the United States amid Chinese intrusions in Philippine territory.
“The President’s change of heart is a welcome development as far as defense and economic security of the country is concerned. The Philippines needs the Visiting Forces Agreement especially now that Chinese intrusions into our territory, particularly in the West Philippines Sea, have become commonplace,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a statement.
He said that the “last thing” the country should lose is the “balance of power” the US can provide to suit the Philippines’ national interest and territorial integrity.
“It is a no-brainer that we can’t stand on our own and protect ourselves from harassment coming from those intrusions,” added Lacson, chair of the Senate national defense committee.
For Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the move of the Philippine government was a “good eventuality” but stressed that the petition filed by senators asking the Supreme Court to affirm the chamber’s role in treaty abrogation remains.
“Sa akin, personally, and perhaps majority of the members of the Senate, it’s a good eventuality sapagkat hindi tayo nangangamba na ‘yung ating VFA, at ‘yung iba pang konektado dito, ay matitigil na,” Sotto told reporters in an online interview.
“We’re still asking the Supreme court whether an abrogation of the executive department must have the concurrence of the Senate, the concurring body. Nandun pa rin ‘yung question na ‘yun. Hindi mata-touch iyon. Tuloy pa rin iyon,” he added.
Meanwhile, administration ally Senator Francis Tolentino praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to suspend the VFA abrogation. He also said the move “opens up a multitude of fresh opportunities” that would strengthen the country’s national security.
He likewise said this would help deter “threats from outside our boundaries for the time being.”
“This decision of the President is perhaps akin to adjusting his sail, so to speak, in order to be able to navigate his ship through dangerous waters, having premised his decision on “prevailing political and other developments in the region,” Tolentino said in a privilege speech during the Senate’s plenary session.
“As the world enters into the ‘new normal,’ we welcome this recent development of the renewal of the VFA which serves as an opportunity for both nations to foster a more strengthened bond of friendship between the Philippines and the United States, a pact forged by the blood of our forefathers for the peace and security in the country and the region,” he added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a letter dated June 1, informed the US Embassy in Manila that the Philippine government would suspend the termination of the VFA.
The suspension will only be effective for six months from June 1 and will be “extendible by the Philippines for another six months,” according to the letter.
On January 23, Duterte gave the US government 30 days to rectify the visa cancellation of his political ally, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, or he would discontinue the two-decade-old military accord.
The Philippines formally pulled out from the defense pact on February 11, from which began the 180-day countdown to the official end of the VFA.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.