(Eagle News) – The United States embassy has acknowledged receiving the Philippine government’s “intent to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)” describing it as having “significant implications for the US-Philippine alliance.”
In a statement, the US embassy said that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had already informed them of the Philippines’ decision to terminate the VFA.
“This is a serious step with significant implications for the U.S.-Philippines alliance,” its statement said.
“We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests.”
-US remains committed to US-PHL friendship-
The US embassy also noted that the “warm relationship” between the US and the Philippines is “deeply rooted in history.”
“We remain committed to the friendship between our two peoples,” it added.
Earlier, the U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper stressed the VFA’s importance in the bilateral exercises conducted by both the US and Philippine troops.
He noted, for instance, that there are about 300 various engagements and exercises that the US conducts bilaterally in the Philippines on an annual basis.
“And looking at the near-term calendar, we already have a tentatively planned Bilateral Strategic Dialogue with the United States and the Philippines in March, and certainly the Visiting Forces Agreement would be part of that dialogue,” Cooper said.
“But it’ll also be part of the broader commitments that we have with each other.”
He also noted the previous “recommitments” on defense cooperation at the ministerial level on the part of the US government with regards to the Philippines, as he recalled the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper to the country last year.
“We already have an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States and the Philippines, and there’s certainly been recommitment at ministerial levels – Secretary Pompeo was out there last year, Secretary Esper was there,” Clarke said in a telephonic press briefing.
The 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is the legal framework for the presence of US troops on Philippine soil and is central to the two nations’ hundreds of annual, joint military exercises, which are a major component of their deep military ties.
The pact requires a 180-day notice to quit, which will likely set off a period of negotiation between the two countries.
In a tweet earlier, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said that the “Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States has received the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement.”
“As a diplomatic courtesy there will be no further factual announcements following this self-explanatory development,” he added.
@DFAPHL The Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States has received the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. As a diplomatic courtesy there will be no further factual announcements following this self-explanatory development. https://t.co/qQhywEpcea
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) February 11, 2020
-President Duterte irked with US “arrogance” on De Lima case-
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly made threats before to terminate the VFA citing what he called the arrogance of US officials who had wanted to interfere in Philippine affairs.
He was particularly irked with the recent cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa following a US senate resolution that called on US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions against Philippine officials who were “responsible for orchestrating the arrest and prolonged detention of” Senator Leila De Lima.
The sanctions which the US senators asked include the revocation of US visas and freezing of assets of Philippine officials responsible for De Lima’s current predicament.
De Lima is detained on drug-related charges but some US senators have claimed these were only trumped-up charges.
Duterte also noted the the US forces “go home with their armaments” after Balikatan exercises.
“If it’s just a matter of weaponry… Ang training dito may Balikatan, after the Balikatan exercises they go home with their armaments. They do not leave it with us. Wala. Tsaka kung bumili ka, mahal,” he said.
“Ngayon, I’ll make it public, because eh public official ako. Si Trump, pati ‘yung others, are trying to save the Visiting Forces Agreement. Sabi ko, ayaw ko. One is that napakabastos ng Amerikano, talagang sobrang bastos. O kayong mga CIA diyan na nakikinig ngayon, mga Amboy, sabihan ninyo ‘yung gobyerno niyo, bastos kayo,” he said in a speech during a meeting with local chief executives on Feb. 10.
“Imagine demanding the release of De Lima under threat that we will not receive the aid at may kolatilya that all persons who have had a hand in the imprisonment of De Lima will not be allowed to go to the United States,” Duterte said.
The US government has earlier described the VFA as a “mutually beneficial and useful framework that strengthens the foundation of military-to-military cooperation and the security relationship between our two countries.”