Palace to US: Give 'satisfactory' explanation on Panatag incident for VFA to stay

Published June 10, 2021, 2:20 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The country may retain the visiting forces agreement (VFA) with the United States if Washington can give a “satisfactory” explanation about the events related to the Panatag Shoal standoff in 2012.

President Rodrigo Duterte (File photo/Malacanang)

According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, there might be “hope” for the VFA if President Duterte will be convinced by Washington’s explanation on why it did not ask China to pull out its ships from the shoal.

Any failure of the US to explain its inaction on the Panatag shoal incident, however, may lead to the termination of the military pact between the two nations.

“Kung makapagbibigay ng explanation ang Estados Unidos kung bakit Pilipinas lang ang pinaalis nila sa Scarborough at hindi nila inintay na umalis ang Tsina, siguro may pag-asa ang VFA (If the United States can give an explanation why it only asked the Philippines to leave Scarborough and did not wait for China to leave the area, maybe there is hope for the VFA),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Thursday, June 10.

“Pero kung walang satisfactory na explanation, sabi ng Presidente ‘Malabo, malabo.’ (But if there is no satisfactory explanation, the President said it is unlikely) and I will just have to quote him on that,” he added.

The President previously criticized the United States for its alleged inaction during the country’s standoff with China over Panatag Shoal. At the time, the country removed its ships from the shoal after a supposed US intervention but China stayed put and effectively took control of territory.

Duterte had resented that America tried to mediate to resolve the Panatag standoff but did nothing when the deal fell through. He claimed that the US did not send its fleet of ships and tell China to leave the area when the country was asserting ownership over Panatag.

In his recent television interview, the President said he would only discuss the VFA after the United States gives an explanation on why it did not require China to pull out its ships from Panatag years ago.

“Unless they can explain it to me in a very simple way na maintindihan ng buong Pilipinas (that the entire Philippines can understand), then I can begin to talk about their foreign forces,” he added.

The President earlier ordered the scrapping of the VFA with the US over alleged inequities in the treaty provisions and alleged meddling in the country’s affairs. But the termination has been suspended amid the pandemic and other global events.

The military deal, signed by the two nations in 1998, provides the rules on the conduct of visiting American soldiers in the country.