Duterte remains undecided on the abrogation of VFA; seeks public opinion

Marje Pelayo   •   February 25, 2021   •   426

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte, in a televised briefing Wednesday night said, he wants to hear the opinion of the Filipino people first before deciding on what to do with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“I must be frank. I do not keep secrets to the people I have approached. I have not yet decided on what to do, meaning to abrogate or renew, because I want to hear the people,” the President said.

On February 12, Duterte said the United States has to “pay” just compensation if it wants the VFA to continue.

The president drew flak over his statement, particularly from Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Panfilo Lacson who both likened the president’s demand to “extortion”.

Signed in 1998, the VFA is an agreement between the Philippines and the United States on the conduct of military activities in the country.

The agreement is in support of the Mutual Defense Treaty, another agreement which provides both military aid to each other in case their respective capitals and territories are attacked.

Last year, the Philippines sent a formal notice to the United States signifying its intention to terminate the VFA which stemmed from the latter’s cancellation of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa’s visa on the allegations of extrajudicial killings during his term as the Chief of the Philippine National Police from 2016 to 2018.

But President Duterte suspended the termination amid the prevailing coronavirus pandemic. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

US gov’t welcomes Duterte decision to recall termination of VFA

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2021

The government of the United States on Friday welcomed the Philippines’ decision to retract the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, earlier in the day, announced the development after President Rodrigo Duterte met with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III.

“We strongly believe that the VFA, and the broader alliance that the VFA enables, strengthens not only the security of our two nations but also the rules-based order that benefits all nations in the Indo-Pacific,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

Duterte and Austin met in Malacañang on Thursday.

Austin is on an official visit to Southeast Asia that includes stops in Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The visit aims to bolster the US’ ties with the said nations.

His visit coincides with the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations of the US and the Philippines and the 70th Anniversary of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty this year.

The PH-US visiting forces deal came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines.

The pact also includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops, and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

Duterte last year ordered the abrogation of the VFA, which is anchored in the PH-US 1951 defense treaty.

The termination of the pact, however, was suspended citing the coronavirus pandemic and the relevant developments in the region.

Non-Abrogation of VFA, no longer a surprise — Bayan Muna

Maris Federez   •   July 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Friday said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to recall the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is “no longer a surprise as it was already an expected move and part of the administration’s Janus-faced foreign policy.”

Zarate said the president was never serious with its decision to abrogate the VFA even from the start.

“We have said it before that he is not really bent on abrogating the VFA. If at all, the prior threat to abrogate is even one way also for Pres. Duterte to appease the United States government and court its favor behind his political plans and for his selected successor in the 2022 elections,” the Davao-based solon said.

“Pres. Duterte is appeasing the US, haggle for more war materiel in support of its US-dictated counter-insurgency campaign. At the same time, he continues to pursue vassal-like relations with China,” he added.

The Deputy Minority leader also emphasized that the government’s move will put the country in the middle of two superpowers.

“Namamangka sa dalawang imperyalistang mga ilog ang foreign policy ng Duterte administration. This is even gravely dangerous and disadvantageous to our country and people,” Zarate said.

“It puts our country between two opposing imperialist superpowers, using our country as a pawn in their race to militarize and dominate the South China Sea,” he added.

Duterte recalls order to terminate VFA with US – Lorenzana

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the retraction of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the announcement after Duterte met with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III in Malacañang on Thursday.

“The President decided to recall or retract the termination letter for the VFA,” Lorenzana said during a press briefing with Austin.

The VFA came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines.

The pact also includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

Duterte last year ordered the abrogation of the VFA, which is anchored in the PH-US 1951 defense treaty.

The termination of the pact, however, was suspended citing the coronavirus pandemic and the relevant developments in the region.

Austin, for his part, welcomed Duterte’s decision to “fully restore the VFA.”

“A strong, resilient US-Philippine alliance will remain vital to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. A fully restored VFA will help up achieve that goals together,” Austin said.

In a separate statement, Malacañang said the Philippines and the United States made a renewed commitment to strengthen their partnership in various areas of mutual interest.

The Palace said Duterte and Austin had “an open and frank discussion” on the status and future direction of Philippines-US engagement during a 75-minute courtesy call of the US defense secretary on the President.

“They agreed that the alliance can be further strengthened through enhanced communication and greater cooperation, particularly in the areas of pandemic response, combating transnational crimes, including the war on illegal drugs, maritime domain awareness, the rule of law, and trade and investments,” the statement read.

US Defense chief Austin is on an official visit to Southeast Asia that includes stops in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. The visit aims to bolster the US’ ties with the said nations.

His visit coincides with the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations of the US and the Philippines and the 70th Anniversary of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty this year.

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