Del Rosario hits Duterte’s ‘No pay, no VFA’ position

Published February 15, 2021, 5:38 PM

by Roy Mabasa

President Duterte shares the same sentiment with the Communist Party of China in not wanting other countries to help the Philippines defend its waters in the West Philippine Sea, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said on Monday.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario

Del Rosario was reacting to what he called an “unfortunate position” earlier expressed by Duterte who said that the US would have to pay if it desires to continue the implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“The President’s position that the US should pay for the Visiting Forces Agreement to continue—is a sentiment that is not shared by our patriotic soldiers and our countrymen who want to defend our West Philippine Sea against China. Instead, it is a sentiment shared by the Chinese Communist Party, which does not want other countries helping the Philippines defend its waters,” the former foreign affairs secretary said.

Del Rosario, who served as the Philippine envoy to Washington, D.C. under the Arroyo administration, pointed out that it is incomprehensible that when partners like the US and the Philippines help each other against a common enemy, “one party is asking his partner to pay. This is the gist of the President’s unfortunate position on the VFA.”

On the other hand, he said China owes Filipinos more than P230 billion in damages for undertaking the most devastating marine destruction in the West Philippine Sea, in obvious reference to Beijing’s artificial island-building in the South China Sea. 

“In this case, when will President Duterte demand China to pay?” the former top Filipino diplomat asked.

In a speech before the members of the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base in Pampanga on Friday, Feb. 12, Duterte said: “I would like to put on notice, if there’s an American agent here, that from now on, you want the Visiting Forces Agreement done? You have to pay.”

During their phone conversation last week, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana highlighted the value of the VFA to the Mutual Defense Treaty. 

The VFA is an implementation of the MDT signed in 1951 between the two countries that provide, among others, a protocol on how to treat American military personnel stationed in the Philippines temporarily; lenient visa and passport procedures when they enter the Philippines, and grants authority to the US government to retain jurisdiction over their military personnel if they ever commit crimes within the Philippines.

The MDT, on one hand, is an agreement that binds the US and the Philippines to provide mutual support in case of a foreign attack. 

In February last year, President Duterte directed Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to abrogate the VFA in an apparent reaction to the cancellation of the US visa of Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa. Dela Rosa served as Duterte’s first chief of the Philippine National Police.

While the VFA’s abrogation was suspended in June last year, efforts between the Philippines and the US are now underway to “iron out” their differences over some provisions of the agreement.