Lower House leaders laud, assail Duterte decision to recall VFA abrogation

President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to recall his previous decision for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States won the support of two officials of the majority bloc in the House of Representatives.

VFA exercise
But not Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate who said the move has long been expected as the threat to rescind the VFA pact was meant only to impress China.

"Pres. Duterte is appeasing the US, haggle for more war materiel in support of its US-dictared counter-insurgency campaign. At the same time, he continues to pursue a vassal-like relations with China," said the Davao-based solon.

Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez welcomed Duterte’s decision as a means of further strengthening “bilateral cooperation between the two countries, which is crucial in this age of pandemic.” “We should welcome all efforts to shore up relations with other countries, especially with our allies, as only through global cooperation can we survive from this world-wide crisis,” said Romualdez.

He added: “More than ever, we need partnership and collaboration with our brother-nations so that we may be able to withstand all threats that our country face right now and in the future.”

Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon lauded the decision that government announced following a visit by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this week.

“It is assumed that Secretary Austin conveyed the Biden Administration’s commitment to standing by the Philippines for mutual interest and benefit, particularly on security issues, hence the president’s redirection of his policy on the PH-US defense agreement,” said Biazon, vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense.

The senior administration lawmaker said Philippine defense and security interests “will surely benefit” in the continuing cooperation between the two countries.

He said the alliance between the two countries “has been consistent in ensuring the freedom of navigation and deterrence of a one-country dominance in the South China Sea."

“This will also mean that the country’s anti-terrorism drive especially in the Southern Philippines will continue to be bolstered by the US through operational and technical assistance as well as intelligence sharing,” said Biazon.

For Zarate, the Duterte flip-flop came as no surprise as “it was an expected move and part of the administration’s Janus-faced foreign poolicy” “If at all, the prior threat to abrogate is even one way also for Pres. Duterte to appease the United States government and court its favor behind his political plans and for his selected successor in the 2022 elections," noted the opposition solon.