Del Rosario: No renegotiation of VFA
MANILA, Philippines—Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario declared Friday that neither the Philippines nor the United States was keen on renegotiating the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement, amid fresh calls for abrogation of the agreement in the wake of the killing of a Filipino transgender woman allegedly by an American soldier.
Del Rosario told a Senate committee that both parties had been reviewing the VFA, including its touchy provisions on jurisdiction and custody of US servicemen accused of committing crimes in the Philippines, long before the Oct. 11 killing of Jeffrey “Jennifer’’ Laude.
But Del Rosario stressed that the consultations between the two governments were not at the level of “negotiation.’’
“I’m not sure that the US would agree [to an amendment],’’ he said in reply to a question by Senator Loren Legarda, who presided over the finance subcommittee’s hearing on the 2015 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Del Rosario told reporters later that both parties were not amenable to renegotiating the 1999 agreement, and were more interested in making it work.
“We’re looking at the smooth implementation of the mechanism. At this time, we’re not for a renegotiation because if there is a material change, then we have to resubmit the whole thing back to the Senate,’’ he said.
Laude’s killing inside a motel in Olongapo City on the night of Oct. 11 has set off calls for the Philippine government to assert custody over the suspect, Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Pemberton was flown from the USS Peleliu, docked at the Subic Freeport in Olongapo City, to the Joint US Military Assistance Group in Camp Aguinaldo last Wednesday.
Del Rosario said that the 19-year-old serviceman remained under US legal custody, but the Philippines would seek custody of him once the charges are filed and a warrant for his arrest is issued.
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