CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A lawmaker from Mindanao has expressed alarm over the plan of the Duterte government to cancel the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States while the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) says it’s time to do so.
Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said to nullify the VFA “will be inimical to our national interest and security.”
Duterte’s pronouncement to terminate the agreement last week came after the US government reportedly cancelled the visa of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, former chief of the Philippine National Police and one of president’s staunch allies in the Senate.
Rodriguez said the cancellation of dela Rosa’s visa, which would deprive him entry to the United States, is uncalled for but can be reconsidered through diplomatic channels. But sustaining the military accord with America is of “utmost importance” given the country’s ongoing territorial dispute with China.
“At a time when we have a territorial conflict with China on our Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] in the West Philippine Sea, this should be the last thing that our President should do,” Rodriguez said in a statement Saturday (Jan. 25).
He said China maintains the so-called “nine-dash line” claim in the disputed area, which has been declared illegal and baseless by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China, he added, has been harassing Filipino fishermen at the Panatag Shoal and has been trying to prevent the resupply of the Phil. Navy vessel, the BRP Sierra Madre, at the Ayungin Shoal.
Both the Panatag Shoal and the Ayungin Shoal are within the Philippine EEZ.
With the VFA in effect, Rodriguez said the US military has the obligation to help the Philippines should the situation in the West Philippine Sea escalate.
“Only the United States under our Mutual Defense Treaty and VFA can come to our defense in case our vessels are attacked in the South China Sea which is considered an extension of the Pacific Ocean,” he said
“I hope the good President will reconsider this move,” the lawmaker said as he maintained that the abrogation of VFA agreement is “within the powers of the Chief Executive.”
The CPP, meanwhile, challenged Pres. Duterte to “walk his talk” and actualize the termination of the VFA.
“For decades, the Filipino people have demanded the abrogation of the VFA which has allowed for the trampling of Philippine sovereignty by US military forces, as well as numerous human rights violations including rape and murder,” the CPP said in a statement Sunday (Jan. 26).
It criticized the Duterte government for hurling tirades against the US government while playing with China and Russia to supposedly get economic and military aid.
The CPP called on the Filipinos to push Pres. Duterte to terminate the VFA and other “unequal military treaties” as well as called for the pullout of all foreign troops from the Philippines.
Human rights watchdog Karapatan also urged Pres. Duterte to end “all US military and police aid to the Philippine government for its sham drug war and counterinsurgency program and the various US functions with Philippine State security forces that exacerbate the human rights crisis that besets the country today.”
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general in a statement Sunday, said the revocation of the VFA, along with other “lopsided military agreements such as the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty and the US-RP Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” is a long-overdue measure to assert the country’s national sovereignty. (davaotoday.com)