No backdoor talks for VFA’s retention, says envoy
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez on Tuesday expressed optimism that Manila and Washington would come out with mutually agreeable terms so that the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would be extended.
Speaking during the press briefing of presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Romualdez denied there were ongoing “backdoor” negotiations to save the treaty, adding that panels from both sides have concluded joint consultations.
“We’ve had, I wouldn’t really call it negotiation but clarifications on terms of agreement, which was completed,” he said.
“The report saying that there are backdoor negotiations, that’s not true because we in the Department of Foreign Affairs are very open,” he added.
Saying the VFA benefits the Philippines’ Armed Forces, Romualdez expressed optimism that the treaty would be eventually renewed following the President’s decision to delay the abrogation of the agreement for the third time.
“I’m one of those who believe that it’s really important for us because it’s mutually beneficial … To be honest about it, the VFA, I think, has benefited our military, which [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana has confirmed on several occasions,” he said.
Romualdez said the Americans were “very happy” about the extension of the abrogation period for six more months.
“So, we’re hoping that this will continue and of course the US government, especially the US military establishments, [is] very pleased with this development that the President has extended it for another six months. So, we’re hoping that it would be perhaps better than it ever was in terms of the kind of agreement that we have with them and it will be mutually beneficial for both our militaries,” he said.
Romualdez said the VFA was one of the many aspects of the Philippines’ “special relations” with its former colonial master. INQ
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