5-year VFA extension proposed

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    PARTY-LIST lawmakers who are allied with the administration yesterday called for a five-year extension, which will be subject to renewal, of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, backing the Senate’s recommendation to maintain the country’s pact with the US under the new administration of President Joe Biden.

    “Perhaps an extension would be the more prudent thing to do, but this time with a five-year program, where every year our counterparts in the US will have an assessment or review of sorts with our own defense secretary,” said deputy speaker Michael Romero of 1-Pacman, the president of the Party-list Coalition.

    Romero said the new VFA should include the transfer of modern warfare training and technologies as well as introduction of new state-of-the-art equipment that the country can use to combat domestic and international threats.

    His colleague in the 1-Pacman party-list, Rep. Eric Pineda said having an ally like the US “who is just like a Big Brother to us will be very crucial, primarily because we also need to have an appropriate response to what China has been doing in our territorial waters, not to mention their new Coast Guard laws.”

    Pineda, chair of the House committee on labor, noted that Beijing’s new coast guard law, which took effect on February 1, allows the Chinese coast guard to use lethal force on foreign ships that do not obey orders to leave disputed waters.

    Manila Teachers party-list Rep. Virgilio Lacson said: “The US has been our ally for the longest time. They have always been there for us.”

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III over the weekend said he was inclined to support the continuation of the VFA between Manila and Washington because “the benefits of having a VFA with the United States far outweigh the presumed unfavorable effects of its presence.”

    Sotto said keeping the VFA would be advantageous to the country amid the tension in the West Philippine Sea.