Senate leaders ask Duterte to reconsider junking VFA

Published February 3, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate leaders on Monday filed a resolution asking President Duterte to reconsider his plan to terminate the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and defense committee chairman Senator Panfilo Lacson authored Resolution No. 312, in which the Upper Chamber urges Duterte to reconsider his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the VFA with the US “in the meantime that the Senate is conducting a review and impact assessment” of the deal.

“A careful deliberation of these matters must be taken into account before finally arriving at a decision which will ultimately affect not only the security and economy of the Philippines but also that of our neighboring countries in the Asia Pacific region,” the resolution stated.

In an interview over radio station DWIZ last Saturday, Sotto said according to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Duterte was asking for advice from various sectors about his order to scrap the VFA.

He said the measure, if adopted by the majority of senators in the plenary, does not intend to interfere with the President’s authority over the country’s foreign policy.

“We concede that by constitutional fiat and by the intrinsic nature of his office, the President, as head of State, is the sole organ and authority in the external affairs of the country being the chief architect of the nation’s foreign policy,” they said in the resolution.

But before the termination of the VFA, the Senate, as stated in the measure, “should be given the opportunity to conduct a review and assessment of the impact of the withdrawal on the country’s security and economy.”

The VFA, entered into by the Philippines and the US in 1998, stipulates how the Philippines should treat American military personnel while in the country.

The Senate committee on foreign relations, led by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, will hold on Thursday an inquiry to review the VFA, as well as the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, and the implications of their possible termination.

Sotto earlier said a “majority” of his colleagues are against the abrogation of the VFA.

Duterte had threatened to cancel the VFA after the US canceled the travel visa of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who is one his closest allies.

But Malacañang said the threat was due to the “series of disrespectful acts” of the US toward the Philippines.

Senators would have to tackle the resolution in plenary before they approve it.

READ MORE: Duterte orders termination of VFA