Palace urged: Wait for Senate review before scrapping VFA

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    SENATORS yesterday urged President Duterte to reconsider his planned termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States while the Senate is conducting a review and impact assessment of the possible scrapping of the agreement.

    Senate Resolution 312, authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, minority leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, said Duterte should wait until the Senate completes its determination of the consequences that a withdrawal of the executive agreement will have on the country’s security and economy.

    The senators noted the assistance provided by the United States to the Philippines in the country’s efforts to fight domestic and foreign terrorist groups, and its role in establishing stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

    While they recognized that the President is “the sole organ and authority in the external affairs of the country being the chief architect of the nation’s foreign policy in the conduct of the external affairs of the nation,” the Senate’s position on the matter should be given weight being a policy-making body.

    “As a policy-making body, the Senate should likewise give its view and opinion on the repercussions that the said unilateral withdrawal will entail to the existing MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) and the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) with the United States,” SRN 312 stated.

    “A careful deliberation of these matters must be undertaken into account before finally arriving at a decision which will ultimately affect not only the security and economy of the Philippines, but also that of our neighboring countries in the Asia Pacific region,” it added.

    The President had threatened to end the VFA with the US in reaction to the cancellation of the visa of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa aggravated by a “series of disrespectful acts” of the US as stated by the Palace spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.

    Dela Rosa, in earlier interviews, said the US did not provide any explanation for the cancellation of his visa which was supposed to expire only in 2022.

    Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate foreign relations committee chair, will conduct a review of the VFA on Thursday, Feb. 6. The review will also tackle the country’s VFA with Australia.

    The VFA with the US was entered into by the country on May 27, 1999, while EDCA on April 28, 2014.

    The VFA provides for the “regulatory mechanism” by which the US military and civilian personnel may temporarily visit the Philippines in connection with the activities approved by the Philippine government.

    EDCA, on the other hand, was signed by the two countries with the aim of supplementing the existing VFA through mutual cooperation in developing their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attacks.