Erap supports VFA review

By Jose Rodel Clapano, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 11 2011 10:21 AM | Updated as of May 11 2011 06:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Former President Joseph Estrada favors a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

In a radio interview with former ambassador Ernesto Maceda, Estrada said it would be timely to review the VFA in light of the US military action in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

Estrada said he objects to the manner by which the US raided a mansion housing bin Laden in Pakistan.

“We have the United Nations,” he said. “The UN was created for all countries to follow the UN’s rules and regulations. I think the Americans are not exempted from the rule.”

Estrada said the Americans have not religiously followed the VFA’s provisions since it was ratified during his administration.

Estrada said that he is against the return of US military bases in the country.

“I strongly oppose that (return of US military bases),” he said. “We can no longer say that we have sovereignty as an independent country or we have true independence if we will allow the return of the US military bases.”

Estrada said it appears that the VFA is being used to facilitate the permanent stay of the US military in the country.

“The Americans also have a battalion of US Marines in Zamboanga City who almost stay there permanently. They did not leave Mindanao and it is a clear violation of the VFA,” he said.

Estrada said that the agenda of the US became clearer when the Arroyo administration almost successfully implemented the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had the Supreme Court not declared it unconstitutional.

“We have the root of the agenda of the US before (President) Arroyo stepped down when the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was signed,” he said.

“We are just lucky that the Supreme Court declared the MOA-AD as unconstitutional. Had it not been for that, we would already lose the nine provinces covered by the MOA-AD which will become the Bangsamoro Republic.

“I can say that is the biggest sin committed by the previous administration to the Filipino people because that is treason. It is treason when you allow (anyone) to divide our country. Our country is too small already to divide it.”

Estrada said the Arroyo administration committed a lot of mistakes and sins against the Filipino people.

“It bowed to the dictates of the US and that is one of the reasons why the Filipino people are now suffering from poverty and hunger,” he said.

“The US does not care about our interest as long as their interests are protected.”

Estrada was one of 12 senators who voted for the abrogation of the US Military Bases Agreement (MBA) in 1991.

Critics claim that US troops are using the VFA to justify their almost permanent stay in Mindanao, specifically in Zamboanga City.