(FEBRUARY 12, 2020) – Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday said she was surprised with the government’s decision to terminate a decades-old military agreement between the United States and the Philippines, saying it was done in haste.
Robredo lamented the decision to revoke the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which she said was done despite pleas from some lawmakers, members of the military, and other government officials, to study the matter thoroughly first.
Malacañang earlier confirmed that the notice of termination of the VFA had been sent to representatives of the U.S. government.
“Nagdesisyon kaagad. Hindi ko maintindihan kung ano iyong dahilan. Isang bagay na kailangang pag-aralan nang mabuti, isang bagay na kailangang pagdiskusyunan muna, bakit minamadali?” he said in an interview.
Robredo said she couldn’t help but compare the government’s supposedly quick decision on the VFA termination with its apparent slow response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
President Rodrigo Duterte had been criticized for not immediately ordering a travel ban on tourists from mainland China, doing so only after the first virus-related death in the country had been reported.
The vice president says it is not right to risk the country’s security over a cancelled visa, referring to the diplomatic row apparently stemming from the voiding of the U.S. visa of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, a known Duterte ally.
“Minamadali ba dahil sa galit na hindi napagbigyan iyong mga kaalyado? Galit dahil sa may kinanselang visa? Parang hindi ito tama na iyong security ng ating bansa iyong nakataya,” she said.
Malacañang had repeatedly referred to the visa cancellation as the “last straw” in a series of missteps by the U.S. government.
The U.S. Senate had passed a resolution imposing sanctions on Philippine officials involved in extrajudicial killings in the administration’s war on drugs, and the alleged wrongful detention of Senator Leila de Lima.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper described as ‘a move in the wrong direction’ the Philippines’ decision to scrap the agreement which has been in place since 1998.
Upon the United States’ receipt of the notice of termination, a 180-day countdown will effectively commence to nullify the agreement. (Randell Ritumalta/JF)
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