Visiting Forces Agreement Latest News

December 20, 2020 – 6:15 am

The announcement of the end of the agreement, which is separate from the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, came after Duterte was tormented over the revocation of the visa of his former police chief, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, one of his key allies. Ridon also called on the president not to be impressed by U.S. military equipment offerings and to lose them more at the end of the agreement. On June 1, the Philippine government informed the U.S. Embassy in Manila that it had frozen a February decision to withdraw the Philippine and U.S. Visiting Forces (VFA) agreement. The agreement between the two countries facilitates the possibility for the United States to send military forces to the Philippines and supports the mutual defense treaty signed in 1951 by the U.S. and Philippine governments. Apart from this reading of the tea leaves, Duterte cannot in principle have a single discretion to decide the fate of the VFA. Senior leaders in the Philippine Senate, particularly the president of the Senate, an ally of Duterte, have launched a petition asking the Supreme Court to ascertain whether Duterte has the unilateral power to denounce the deal.

The petition calls for the executive and the legislature to agree on such a decision. Despite the court decision, President Salvador Panelo`s spokesman said: “We will follow the Supreme Court. No matter what the law says, we will follow. However, the Supreme Court tends to favour Duterte. Paradoxically, the fatal blow to the VFA could come from Washington itself rather than from Manila. Asked about Duterte`s denunciation of the agreement, Trump said, “I don`t mind them wanting to do it. It will save a lot of money. … My opinions are different from the others. Trump`s statement underscores his general lack of esteem for international agreements and alliances in favor of his “America First” policy. However, the two leaders spoke on 19 April and it was not known whether the VFA was running. Whatever happens, the fate of the VFA will determine the tone of the Alliance at least for the remainder of Duterte`s mandate until 2022, if not beyond.

As part of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Philippine armed forces were trained by their American counterparts in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. Hundreds of joint exercises are held each year. The VFA is a 1998 agreement between Manila and Washington on the protocol for the U.S. military in the country. Controversial provisions include the lax visa and passport policy for U.S. troops and the power of the U.S. government to retain jurisdiction over the military if they ever commit crimes on the ground. On February 11, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Manila would denounce the U.S. and Philippine Visit mission agreement (VFA), an agreement that allows the U.S. military to move to the Philippines.

Duterte`s decision was taken in Washington with deep concern about the possible consequences of the Indopa-Pacific strategy, which was essentially aimed at countering China`s growing ability to impose itself. The pact allowed the U.S. military to conduct large joint exercises in the Philippines, decades after the Americans were expelled from naval bases north of Manila because of rentals. The Philippines is a contractual ally of the United States, with several military agreements dependent on the VFA. Last year, Duterte announced in Washington that he had terminated the agreement amid outrage over the refusal of a senator and an ally on a U.S. visa. Although Duterte threatened to reject U.S. forces in 2016, he also clearly benefits from U.S. military assistance in those operations – and Manila may need more support since 11 of its soldiers have just been killed in the fight against the Terrorist Group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

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