January 25, 2020 – The security sector will brief President Ridrigo Duterte on all possible scenarios arising from the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, the country’s defense chief said on Saturday.
Delfin Lorenzana, a retired army general who was once posted in Washington as defense attache, said they will give a detailed presentation on how the decision to end the two decade-old military arrangement would affect the country’s security, weighing the benefits and risks of the legal agreement.
“I will discuss with the President the various scenarios concerning the possible termination of the VFA and what future actions may be undertaken by the DND and AFP regarding this matter,” Lorenzana said in a statement, adding the government can unilaterally terminate the treaty.
Lorenzana also said the Philippines can scrap the VFA without the concurrence of the Senate, which ratified the deal in 1999.
The VFA will still be in effect for 180 days after the government notified the US in writing that it wanted the treaty rescinded, he added.
“The termination of the VFA may be unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, and it is well within the right of the Philippine government to do so if it determines that the agreement no longer redounds to our national interest,” he said.
He said the defense and military estsblishments will work closely with the foreign affairs deoo department to study all available options for the country moving forward.
Duterte has earlier threatened to terminate the VFA after the United States canceled the visa of his close ally Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, a former national police chief.
Locsin and Lorenzana who sits as chairperson and vice chairperson, respectively of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces (PCVF) has since started processing the termination of the key military deal.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara, also said his office has finished its study on the procedure and will be submitting a report on his findings to President Duterte on Monday.
In 1998, the Philippines and the United States signed the VFA to strengthen international and regional security in the Pacific area.
Under Article III of the agreement, United States military personnel are exempted from passport and visa regulations upon entering and departing the Philippines.
The agreement also allows thousands of US servicemen to hold training and exercises, like the annual large-scale Balikatan and Kamandag activities. (Juno Buena/MM)
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