Saturday, January 25, 2020

Philippines can terminate VFA unilaterally — Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza said the Philippines can unilaterally (one-sided) terminate the bilateral (two-sided) Visiting Forces Agreement between the country and the United States. "The termination of the VFA may be unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, and it is well within the right of the Philippine government to do so if it determines that the agreement no longer redounds to our national interest," the Department of National Defense chief said in a message to reporters on Friday night. President Rodrigo Duterte previously threatened to terminate the agreement in a month if the United States would not reconsider its revocation of Sen. Bato dela Rosa's visa.

The Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces has since started processing the termination of the VFA. "All that is required is that a notice of termination be served to the US government. The termination shall take effect 180 days after the date of the notice," Lorenzana said.

The said agreement signed in 1998 allows American and Filipino troops to conduct joint training operations in Philippine territory. This view was previously affirmed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who heads the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.

The senator said that lacking a Philippine Supreme Court ruling on the matter, Duterte has the capacity to unilaterally break a treaty or bilateral agreement without the consent of a supermajority (2/3) vote of the Senate. However, Lacson said that the cancellation of a US visa does not have the same weight as terminating the VFA, urging the high court to act "soonest."

“The Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and United States is a BILATERAL accord that went through some back-and-forth diplomatic discussions prior to ratification by the Senate, after some intense plenary deliberation,” he said. “On the other hand, the US visa is a conditional authorization UNILATERALLY given to a visiting foreigner which may be granted, canceled or even denied outright, without need for explanation or justification.”

The country's top diplomat, Teodoro Locsin, on Friday asked Lorenzana to start the termination process of the VFA as ordered by the president. "While maintaining constant consultations with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, I will discuss with the president the various scenarios concerning the possible termination of the VFA and what future actions may be undertaken by the DND and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) regarding this matter," Lorenzana was quoted as saying in a Philippine News Agency report.