MANILA — Senator Aquilino Pimentel III on Wednesday said the Senate review of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States is not meant to interfere with the actions of President Rodrigo Duterte but could lead to improvements in the treaty in case the Executive branch decides to continue the military accord.
“Hindi naman namin pinapakialaman (We are not interfering), we are just reviewing it. Wala itong relation sa visa ni Bato (This has nothing to do with the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa),” he said in an interview.
The chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said the review, which is set for next week, would tackle the VFA’s implementation, the protocols, the benefits it gave to the country, as well as the problems encountered and any ambiguities in the treaty, among others.
After the review is completed by his panel, Pimentel said a committee report will be submitted to the plenary for debates and discussion, after which a copy of would be furnished to Malacañang.
“It will be presented as the Senate’s sentiment,” he said.
Pimentel admitted however that the review could also lead to the introduction of amendments to the VFA, with the end view of improving the military accord in case Malacañang decides not to terminate the treaty.
“Kung kailangan mang i-improve yun, kung may ambiguities at gusto nating ipagpatuloy ang VFA (If ever we need to improve it if there are ambiguities and we want to continue the VFA) so that means it’s an amendment,” he said.
He said the Senate report would then take the form of an “advise.”
“Advise yan, so bibigyan natin ng advice ang Executive branch (It’s an advice, so we will be giving advice to the Executive branch),” Pimentel said.
“So we should start the process of initiating the amendment… with the consent of the other party,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pimentel said the VFA review would also touch on the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US, as well as the country’s VFA with Australia.
He said this due to a theory by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian that the VFA is closely intertwined with the MDT.
“So if we review the VFA, necessarily mare-review mo rin (we will also review the) MDT and EDCA, which is also an adjunct of the MDT,” he said
“Open-ended ito, hindi namin alam kung kailan kami hihinto basta (we do not know when we will stop, but) it’s a review of the VFA,” Pimentel said.
Duterte last week said he would terminate the VFA after the US canceled the visa of dela Rosa.
The VFA governs the conduct of US soldiers stationed in the Philippines while the MDT ensures that Washington and Manila will come to the aid of the other should one of the parties is under attack.
On the other hand, the EDCA allows the greater rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines. (PNA)