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Good riddance to the VFA

February 14, 2020 - Friday 4:02 AM by Jimmy Laking

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As to be expected, President Duterte’s decision to put an end to the Visiting Forces Agreement has been overblown by the Manila-based media establishments any which you look at it.

None bothered to explain that it was merely an executive agreement or a side dish to the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Philippines that is still in force.

This treaty remains the main dish and is binding since 1951. The treaty binds each to come to each other’s defense in case of foreign attack.

Article II of that agreement goes directly to the point: “In order more effectively to achieve the objective of this Treaty, the parties separately and jointly by self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”

Even before this was signed, the Philippines sent the Philippine Expeditionary Force (PEFTOK) in 1950 that fought alongside the Americans in the defense of South Korea. This was composed of 1,648 troops who were to prove their mettle in the Battle of Yuldong.

Nor does the writing off of the VFA have anything to do with 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries that is still binding.

The EDCA supposedly was designed to promote interoperability, capacity building towards AFP modernization, strengthening AFP for external defense, maritime security, maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance and disaster response between the host country and the United States.

The agreement allows American troops “access to and use of designated areas and facilities owned and controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the invitation of the Philippine government.”

It also made it clear that the United States is not allowed to establish a permanent military presence or base in the Philippines.

It has a tenure of 10 years and will remain in force until terminated by either party.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esprer said the termination of the VFA was a “move in the wrong direction.” Former foreign affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario described it as a “national tragedy.”

But Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara said President Duterte had everything he wanted to know before he made up his mind to boot out the agreement.

Besides, Guevara added, the Philippines can survive the termination of a mere visiting forces agreement as it survived earlier the termination of the RP-US military bases agreement.

Malacañang squelched speculation that the United States might terminate its military treaties with the Philippines, following the sudden demise of the VFA.

It said the treaties actually benefited more the United States than the Philippines “as it needed to be in almost every part of the world to secure itself from its perceived enemies.”

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the VFA has brought about inequities with Filipinos at the receiving end. “Hence the termination is a consequence of a series of legislative and executive actions by the US government that bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system.”

In short, if you read between the lines, the VFA was a tool of oppression and never the product of mutual respect between and among sovereign nations. Good riddance.