The vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security on Thursday urged the Duterte administration to reconsider its move to put an end to the Visiting Forces Agreement, noting that relations between the Philippines and United States under the Biden administration have become cordial again.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said he based his opinion to the recent statement of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III who affirmed that the US remains committed to the US-Philippines alliance, the Mutual Defense Treaty and the VFA.
“In light of this warming relations between the Philippines and US under the fledgling Biden administration, it might be the opportune time for the Philippines to reconsider the termination of the VFA, which was decided during different circumstances and an administration that has been replaced,” Biazon said.
During the recent call of Austin with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the two defense secretaries discussed the importance of enhancing the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ capabilities and increasing interoperability between the two countries’ militaries through a variety of bilateral security cooperation activities.
The two also discussed regional security challenges, including the West Philippine Sea, counterterrorism, and maritime security, and affirmed the importance of upholding international rules and norms, including the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling that shot down China's claim that it has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters within its "nine-dash line" boundary.
Biazon viewed with optimism the opportunity for the two countries to initiate a fresh start may also be the time to recalibrate the two countries’ relations, including the possible tweaking of the VFA.
“It would be an appropriate response to the law passed by China authorizing its Coast Guard to use weapons against Filipinos in disputed waters,” the administration lawmaker said.
China’s Coast Guard Law took effect on February 1, which allows the Chinese Coast Guard ships to use lethal force on foreign ships that do not obey orders to leave disputed waters.
Prior to the US 2020 elections, Biazon pushed for the extension of the VFA abrogation’s suspension, saying doing so would give the Philippines “elbow room” for a possible renegotiation depending on the outcome of the US presidential elections.
He also said he doesn’t see the Biden administration changing the United States’ Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) Strategy. “It is a national defense and national security issue to them, which usually remains geared towards a specific strategic direction regardless of the party in power,” Biazon explained.