De Lima: Duterte’s termination of VFA “epically wrong”

(Eagle News)–President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement is “epically wrong,” Senator Leila de Lima said.

In a statement, De Lima said for one, the VFA, after all, “is an important cog in a whole system of defense and security arrangements with the US that includes the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)..”

She said the Philippines “has benefitted for many years, particularly in the matters of joint training and exercises of our soldiers, the modernization program of the AFP, and the ready assistance to our countrymen during calamities.”

She said the Philippines also has “a working partnership with the US in countering terrorism and cyber attacks, and in checking the inflow of trafficked persons and illegal drugs to the country.”

“This set-up with the US, of which the VFA is an integral part, has likewise allowed us preferential treatment in foreign military financing and procurement of defense equipment from the US,” she said.

According to De Lima, for another, “the unilateral – nay, dictatorial – move of Duterte to abrogate the VFA is a stinging slap to the institution of the Senate, which has the shared treaty-making power under the Constitution.”

“While indeed it may be timely now to review certain provisions of the VFA — or even the MDT and EDCA – its sudden termination without benefit of evaluation by the legislative branch and the defense and foreign affairs departments smacks of deliberate intent to set aside any generally beneficial agreement with the US or any other foreign Western power, especially if we are to seriously consider the aggressiveness of China in grabbing our territories in the West Philippine Sea and in threatening the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” she said.

“(The VFA termination) is a gigantic geo-political blunder, and a grievous misstep that may further unsettle the functioning of our very own government — one that is supposedly built on constitutionalism and the principle of checks and balances,” she added.

The Philippine government terminated the VFA, which governs the conduct of American soldiers as they conduct military exercises with their Philippine counterparts, after the US cancelled Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s US visa.

Dela Rosa said he believes this was because of his role as former national police chief in the drug war, which the US has repeatedly criticized.

Dela Rosa said Duterte’s move was because of one-sided foreign relations.