By Vanne Terrazola
The Philippines’ abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with United States may be considered a “blessing in disguise” if the two countries indeed have already drafted a new agreement that would be fair to both parties.
Senator Panfilo Lacson stated this Saturday when asked in a radio interview about the reported plan of Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez to recommend the adoption of a new military pact with the US that would address sovereignty issues with the VFA.
President Duterte ordered the withdrawal from the 22-year-old agreement with the US last February 11. The termination will officially take effect on August 9.
“Kung matutuloy at magkakaroon ng panibagong negotiation at mapapabuti ang Pilipinas, baka sabihin na nating blessing in disguise na rin ang ginawang move ng Presidente [Duterte] na i-abrogate. Kung ganoon ang ating titingnan (If this would push through and we would have renegotiations that would benefit the Philippines, then we can say that President Duterte’s move to abrogate the VFA could be considered a blessing in disguise. If we are really looking into it),” Lacson told radio DWIZ.
This development, he said, proves the belief of some, including Duterte’s Cabinet officials that the Philippines benefits from its deal with the US, particularly in ensuring the national security.
Earlier, he revealed that several Cabinet and military officials have apprehensions about Duterte’s decision to scrap the VFA. Palace officials, however, denied this.
“Dahil no man is an island. Hindi lang naman tayo makikinabang sa VFA. Pati ang US tungkol sa geopolitics nila. Kasi admit it or not, ang Pilipinas, ang ating location, ay strategic at kailangan din ng US na may makikipagkasundo na bansa tulad ng Pilipinas (Because no man is an island, we are not the only one benefitting from the VFA. Even the US is, in terms of their geopolitics. Admit it or not, our location is strategic and the US needs countries like the Philippines),” Lacson said.
Should Romualdez’s plan push through, Lacson said he hopes the new agreement would no longer be one-sided against the Philippines. That is also if the US agrees.
“Kasi alam mo naman ‘pag treaty it takes two to tango, di naman pwedeng anong gusto natin ‘yan ang masusunod. Kaya sabi ko di ba, back and forth ang negotiation, hindi makuha sa isang upuan. Maraming pabalik-balik na pag-uusap ‘yan (Because it takes two to tango when it comes to treaties, we cannot just insist on our demands. That’s why I said negotiations are back and forth, we cannot get it in one sitting. It requires a lot of discussions),” he said.
For his part, he said he hopes that the government would be able to address the lopsided provisions of the VFA, particularly the Philippines and US’ jurisdictions over their military personnel who commit crimes, and the joint military exercises.