Senators hail retention of PH-US VFA

Published July 30, 2021, 1:07 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators lauded on Friday, July 30, the decision of President Duterte to retract his planned termination of the visiting forces agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.

Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III leads on July 26, 2021 the opening of the third regular session of the upper chamber under the 18th Congress. (Senate PRIB)

“I concur. Good move!” Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said in a text message sent to reporters.

Senator Francis Tolentino said the move reflects the “strong alliance” between the two countries, which recently celebrated their diplomatic relationship of 75 years.

He, however, stressed the need to improve and strengthen the VFA even as the Philippines and the US have agreed to keep it.

“We should move for an upgrade,” Tolentino said, disclosing that he filed a resolution on the matter.

“If the retraction of the termination is coupled with the strengthening of the VFA, it is the correct move…given the current Indo-pacific geopolitical tensions,” he added.

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chairperson and Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that should the VFA be revised to come up with new terms, a new treaty must be ratified by the Senate.

“Since there is no announcement that there is a new VFA treaty then we assume that what has been continued is the existing VFA. Hence, it is as if everything regarding the VFA is as it used to be,” he noted.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana first announced that Duterte decided to recall the abrogation of the VFA after meeting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the decision was “based on upholding the Philippines’ core interests, the clear definition of PH-US alliance as one between sovereign equals, and clarity of US position on its obligations and commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty.”

On March 9 2020, Senate leaders filed a petition before the Supreme Court to question Duterte’s decision to terminate the VFA without the Senate’s concurrence.