Repeal of VFA risks ‘isolation’ of PH in world stage – analyst
MANILA, Philippines — The government’s decision to end the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States would likely affect its foreign relations with other countries.
Security expert Jay Batongbacal said the Philippines’ credibility to carry out its commitments would now raise doubts.
“It can result in our isolation. Even other allies will be dealing with us at arms’ length because they will have to contend with that uncertainty that any activities with us are only for short term and minimal impact,” he told INQUIRER.net.
“They will not invest in long-term security partnerships and activities with us,” he added.
On February 11, the Philippines sent its notice of termination of the VFA to the US Embassy in Manila. It will take effect after 180 days.
The VFA, which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, governs the conduct of visiting American forces and serves as a foundation for joint exercises between the US and Philippine militaries.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to end the VFA goes against the advice of his foreign and security officials to review the 20-year-old military agreement first.
“What it shows is that we have no consistency in our defense posture and in our policy, that we can so quickly and arbitrarily change,” Batongbacal pointed out.
“Any other country looking at us as a potential ally will not see us as reliable and consistent. They will have second thoughts now in having a security partnership if they know any time things can change dramatically,” he also said.
While the administration paints the move to abrogate VFA as an act in the direction of an independent foreign policy, critics said it was just part of Duterte’s effort to pivot to China and Russia as he had been saying since 2016.
Batongbacal said it was unlikely that China and Russia would form an alliance with the Philippines.
“China has no alliance with any other nation. They have cooperation arrangements with North Korea, but they don’t want to admit that it’s an alliance. They don’t want to be tied down,” he said.
“Same thing with Russia. Right now, they are not looking for such kind of new partners. They don’t have tangible interests common with the Philippines,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. said last week that the country’s international standing as viewed by other US-allied countries may be affected by the termination.
“While the VFA is a bilateral agreement between the Philippines and the US, there may be repercussions in the way other US-allied and/or US-friendly countries – e.g. Japan, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, and Israel – perceive and/or conduct their foreign relations with the Philippines should it be decided that the agreement be terminated,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a televised interview the Philippines will not shift alliances after the termination of the VFA with the US.
This, despite the statements of Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. early this week that they will increase their engagements with other countries like Japan and Australia after VFA’s repeal.