Santiago, Bello to file joint resolution seeking end to visiting forces agreement
MANILA, Philippines—A senator and a congressman are set to file on Monday a joint resolution calling for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Akbayan Representative Walden Bello had already agreed to gather support in the House of Representatives so that Congress could formally indicate its displeasure at the disadvantage the VFA gives to the Philippines.
The move stems from the furor over the dumping of toxic waste by a US Navy-contracted vessel, the MT Glenn Guardian that siphoned domestic waste from Emory Land, a US military-owned ship, and dumped the contents 37 kilometers off Subic Bay.
Santiago said while the Glenn Guardian should be held accountable for dumping its haul in Philippine waters, the US government should also be held responsible since the contents came from one of its Navy ships.
Under the law, the Senate has the sole authority to ratify foreign agreements.
“Although only the Senate possesses policy-making power in foreign relations, I think we should ring in the House,” Santiago said
Santiago said consultations with the University of the Philippine Law Center indicated that the move to terminate the VFA “must be treated almost like a bill,” meaning the Senate and the House must pass corresponding versions that would be signed by the President.
As it is, Santiago said, current laws “do not provide for how to abrogate the VFA.”
However, she added that the Philippines is not required to justify why it has decided to terminate the VFA.
Once the Senate and the House approve separately the joint resolution that she and Bello would file, there is no need to hold a bicameral conference committee to reconcile conflicting provisions.
“The joint resolution goes to the President for approval. If he does not sign it in 30 days, it would become law,” Santiago said.
She added that the President has the power to veto the joint resolution.
“Otherwise, if the President allows it to lapse into law, he has to direct the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to send the notice of termination to the US embassy here,” the senator said.
Santiago giggled and said “no” when asked in an impromptu news conference whether she was confident that she and Bello could convince enough legislators to support the joint resolution.
“It depends on the ideology of the members of the House and the Senate… It cannot be done before year end… but we can start the movement now,” she added.
Santiago has long been known to be against the VFA.
She questioned the term “visiting” after noting that US military troops had actually set up permanent structures in Zamboanga City which made the term moot.
“This is actually a permanent visit. They have been here for 13 years. They are misleading us about the nature of their visit. Even international media is aware of this,” she said.
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