MANILA, Philippines – The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and United States (US) can be reviewed just like any other policy, Senator Franklin Drilon said Thursday.
“There’s nothing sacrosanct about the Visiting Forces Agreement. Like any policy, like any stature, it is always subject to review,” Drilon said in a media forum in the Senate.
“Let’s hear the complaints whether these are valid or not, what are the shortcomings, let us review it,” he added.
Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Loren Legarda, and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III have filed separate resolutions urging a review of the VFA in light of the controversy surrounding the waste dumping incident by a US Navy contractor.
Santiago had called for the VFA to be terminated to avoid making the country’s waters a dumping ground of the US..
Malacañang Palace however said that the incident involved a civilian vessel which meant the VFA had nothing to do with it.
Drilon said “I would like to hear the debate again on the VFA. Senator Miriam has filed a resolution. Let’s hear it. I have an open mind on this,”
The MT Glenn Guardian, a tanker of the Malaysian company Glenn Defense Marine Asia that disposes sewage and kitchen wastes from US Naval Vessels in the country, had dumped an estimated 189,500 liters of domestic waste and about 760 liters of bilge water some 17 nautical miles off the coast of Subic.
Laboratory tests conducted by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority had found the wastes to be in excess of the allowable limits set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Mateo Mayuga, chief executive officer of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines Inc., in a Senate hearing presided by Legarda,, had said that they dumped the waste beyond the 12 nautical-mile requirement for untreated wastes set by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
The PCG pointed out that Glenn Guardian had not acquired a dumping permit regardless of where they dumped the wastes.
Legarda said that there were clear violations of Philippine laws and regulations in the incident.
The VFA was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999 allowing US military forces to enter the country unrestricted provided there was proper coordination.
It was also used for the regular “Balikatan” joint military training exercises between Philippine and US forces.