Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Saturday that the Philippines should “absolutely” keep its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, saying its benefits outweigh the supposed disadvantages of having it.
“The benefits of having a VFA with the USA far outweigh the presumed unfavorable effects of its presence,” Sotto said in a message to reporters on February 27.
The Senate chief issued the statement after President Duterte said on Wednesday he would seek the public’s opinion on whether or not to push through with the terminaton of the VFA.
“I must be frank…I have not yet decided on what to do. Meaning to say, to abrogate or renew because I want to hear the people,” he said.
“Ang ordinaryong mamamayang (The ordinary people) can have the say,” he added.
“Diplomatic relations and economic pressures work in different ways, achieving the same purpose,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said of Duterte’s remarks.
Senator Panfilo Lacson also welcomed Duterte’s pronouncement, saying: “Nobody has the monopoly of wisdom regardless of power and authority.”
Several senators had opposed Duterte’s unilateral abrogation of the VFA with the US, with some saying that the Senate, as in entering into treaties, should first concur with move.
Last year, the Senate filed a petition before the Supreme Court to settle the dispute on whether or not the concurrence of the Senate is needed in the termination of international treaties and agreements. Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan, on the other hand, said Duterte should be focusing more on another “VFA”.
“The VFA that Malacañang should be prioritizing at this time is the VFA that stands for Vaccine For All and not the Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said.