By Mario Casayuran
The Senate foreign relations committee decided Wednesday to conduct a public hearing Thursday next week on the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
This was the consensus of senators who attended a closed-door meeting by the committee chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III on his resolution seeking a review of the VFA.
Earlier, fears were expressed that a Senate recommendation to abrogate the treaty might infringe on the President’s power to enter into treaties.
Present in the meeting presided by Pimentel were Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard J.Gordon, Grace Poe, and Ronald dela Rosa.
Pimentel said his committee will also review two other military-related treaties – the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Last Tuesday, neophyte Senator Imee R. Marcos filed a resolution seeking a Senate committee review of the EDCA as it “indirectly allows the US military to skirt the constitutional ban on foreign bases in the Philippines and makes the country a potential target of America’s adversaries.”
Marcos also said that the agreement has made US troops a “permanent presence” in Philippine territory, which violates a provision in the EDCA stating that the US would not establish any permanent presence or base in the country.
Marcos earlier warned that the termination of the VFA may cause the Philippines to lose custody of US Lance Corporal Joseph Pemberton, who killed transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014.
Pimentel said his committee would try to determine if the Philippines benefitted from these treaties or whether these treaties would continue to be respected.
After the public hearing, Pimentel said, his committee would make a recommendation if it will continue, reject, or renegotiate the treaty.
The committee report will be subjected to a plenary debate at the Senate session hall before it is transmitted to Malacanang.
The scheduled public hearing by the Pimentel committee came in the wake of threats by President Duterte to terminate the VFA after the US government cancelled the US visa of his political ally, Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
He said Malacanang wanted the Senate’s position on its threat to terminate the VFA in 30 days.
“As far as I am concerned, the power to terminate treaties entered into by the Philippines belongs to the President,” Pimentel said.
While the President enters into treaties, the Senate, the country’s treaty ratifying body, may give its concurrence.