"We should not be afraid because we can live without the VFA.”
This was the assessment offered by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who chairs the Senate foreign affairs committee after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to notify Washington that the country is terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.
Pimentel said the country will survive even without the VFA because these are just “rules for visiting American soldiers” in the Philippines.
Pimentel said he supports the President’s decision to terminate the VFA since it was a one-sided agreement in favor of the Americans.
On Feb. 7, the President ordered the DFA to send official notice to the United States of Manila’s decision to terminate the VFA.
The President brought up the VFA after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, President Duterte’s former chief of police.
Some senators—including Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon—filed a resolution appealing to the President to reconsider his decision until after the Senate has finished “a review and impact assessment” of the termination.
The United States has not given any explanation of its cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa, but many believe it is related to a US Senate resolution giving the US executive branch the power to impose travel restrictions on alleged human rights violators anywhere in the world.
When he was chief of the Philippine National Police, Dela Rosa was the architect of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Sunday the President would direct Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to instruct Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday to give formal notice to the US about the Philippines’ decision to abrogate the VFA.
On Friday night, Panelo said the President had already done so, triggering a denial by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who called the spokesman’s announcement "fake news.”
Panelo, however, insisted that the President is determined to scrap the VFA despite the Senate’s ongoing review.
The VFA, which will be deemed terminated 180 days after the Philippines sends a formal notice to the US, allows the US government to retain jurisdiction over their military personnel accused of committing crimes in the country unless the crimes are “of particular importance” to the country.
Also on Sunday, Panelo said Duterte has not yet talked to US President Donald Trump about the decision.
He added that the President would not be the one to initiate such a discussion.