Sotto backs keeping VFA
MANILA, Philippines — If President Rodrigo Duterte seeks his opinion on the matter, Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Saturday said he would be inclined to support the retention of the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
“The benefits of having a VFA with the United States far outweigh the presumed unfavorable effects of its presence,” he said in a Viber message to reporters after Mr. Duterte, in a televised message, called on the Filipino nation to weigh in on whether the VFA should be retained or terminated.
“I have not yet decided on what to do, because I want to hear the people … and this is not limited to Congress; ordinary people can have a say,” he said, adding that citizens can air their opinions through the citizens’ complaint center at 8888.
Sotto said he was against the termination of the VFA because of the risks the Philippines faces amid the brewing tension in the West Philippine Sea.
“For me, it should not be scrapped because we cannot yet secure our surrounding waters. We can also come up with a VFA with Japan,” he said.
Aside from the United States, the Philippines also has a similar status of forces agreement with Australia, which the Senate ratified in 2012.
The Philippines and Japan also began discussions in 2015 on a similar agreement that would allow Japanese military access to the country’s military bases.
Sotto noted that while the President has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to terminate the agreement, the VFA is not yet “abrogated” and the DFA has in fact started discussions with Washington on the agreement.
“The President was aware that there were about 90 days or 120 days before the revocation becomes final. But he has carefully studied the implications,” he said.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. served the notice of termination to the United States on Feb. 11, 2020, but the President has since suspended the termination because of the pandemic.
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