Scrapping of VFA risks PH-US military activities – US official
MANILA, Philippines — The termination of the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States may potentially disrupt hundreds of military undertakings lined up for the two countries, a ranking official of the United States said.
Speaking at a teleconference on Monday, or a day before the Philippine government notified the US of its intent to end the VFA, US Assistant Secretary of State R. Clarke Cooper told reporters that there are “over 300” military activities set for this year, which include port calls, joint exercises, and bilateral engagements.
“The Visiting Forces Agreement provides a framework that engenders us to do those activities… Absent that agreement, we do put at risk those activities that the different defenses, the different services in the Philippines very much value,” he said.
The VFA, ratified in 1999, covers the conduct of US troops who take part in military exercises in the Philippines. Its termination would take effect 180 days after Washington receives the notice.
“As I mentioned, there is a significant amount of resources that had been invested in that bilateral relationship, and putting at risk – I don’t think anyone in the government of the Philippines would want to put at risk the numerous engagements,” Cooper said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday signed the notice on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
On Twitter, he said that terminating the VFA was received by the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Manila.
Duterte went ahead in ending the crucial military pact even after Locsin cited in a Senate hearing last week the benefits of VFA to national security, trade, and economy. He said the US presence was a deterrent to China from taking more aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea.
Locsin and security officials only recommended for a review of the agreement and not its outright abrogation.
The VFA would be one of the issues discussed during the planned Bilateral Strategic Dialogue with the United States and the Philippines in March, Cooper said.
“I would just say from an assessment standpoint, we’re looking at what would be an immediate impact would be all those joint military-to-military activities that we currently enjoy right now between Manila and Washington,” he said.
Edited by EDV
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