The proposed extension of the country’s visiting forces agreement (VFA) with the United States is “on the table” pending a dialogue with Washington officials, President Duterte said Monday.
The President dangled the VFA extension in seeking information from US government officials amid the administration’s probe supposedly on the controversial Panatag Shoal standoff years ago.
Duterte previously blamed Albert Del Rosario, the foreign affairs secretary during the Aquino administration, for the country’s loss of Panatag Shoal during a standoff with China in 2012. He questioned the pullout of the country’s ship from the shoal supposedly under a United States-brokered deal while the Chinese vessels stayed put and consequently took control of the territory.
“Itong visiting forces agreement ang extension is on deck, is on the table,” the President said during a televised address Monday, July 19.
“Gusto ko lang makiusap, hindi makiusap, makipagsalita o makipag-ugnayan (I just want to talk, to reach out). I just want to talk some people in Washington be it from the Office of the President or State Department or the defense department,” he added.
Duterte then mentioned an ongoing government probe but was vague about the information he wanted from the US government.
He dropped hints though that the government investigation was in connection with Del Rosario’s role in the Panatag Shoal standoff. If ever he finds proof of irregularity, Duterte threatened to sue the former foreign affairs chief on the matter.
Back in April, the President asked Del Rosario and his ally former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio why the county lost Panatag Shoal if they were supposedly bright. He also said while the country won the arbitral ruling in a case against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea, “nobody in the United Nations” was ready to go to war for the Philippines.
In a previous public address, the President asked the United States to explain its supposed inaction during the Panatag Shoal standoff between the Philippines and China in 2012. When Manila pulled out its ships from the area as part of a supposed US-brokered deal to end the impasse, Duterte was puzzled why America did not take action when China did not budge.
The President earlier ordered the termination of the VFA, which governs the conduct of visiting American troops in the country, after he protested the alleged unequal provisions as well as the alleged US meddling in the country’s affairs. The planned abrogation of the military pact however has been suspended for more than a year now due to global challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic.