Biazon: Scrapping VFA poses risk to national security

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2020 12:59 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2020 02:30 PM

Philippine and US Marines simulate an amphibious landing as part of the annual Philippine-US joint military exercises in San Antonio, Zambales, May 9, 2018. Ted Aljibe, AFP/File

MANILA - A lawmaker on Friday expressed concern on President Rodrigo Duterte's threat to terminate the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), saying this could compromise national security.

"We appeal that the president consider the position," said Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon. 

On ANC's Early Edition, Biazon said Duterte should consult first with the secretary of defense and the National Security Council, which includes representatives from Congress, before making such move.

Duterte on Thursday threatened to scrap the VFA after Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, a long-time ally, bared that Washington had cancelled his US visa. He gave the US one month to reverse the visa cancellation.

The Visiting Forces Agreement came into force in 1999 and covers the conduct of American soldiers in the Philippines.

It is among military agreements between the Philippines and the US, which also include the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows greater rotational presence of US troops in the country; and the Mutual Defense Treaty which requires one to defend the other in case of an attack on its territory.

"This could be a way for the president to get an objective achieved as far as relations with the United States is concerned," he said.

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But Biazon noted that the weight of the matter falls on Dela Rosa's shoulders.

"If I were in a similar situation with the senator, I would be the one to tell the president to just let go of the issue, to consider national security as a primordial concern over my personal access to visit the United States," he said.

He said he expects Dela Rosa, a retired chief of the Philippine National Police and a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, to consider national security to be higher than his privilege of visiting the United States.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Dela Rosa said the issue is not just about him but rather about lopsided foreign relations.

"He is a leader who doesn't want his people treated unfairly. I don't deserve this bargain, but it is not all about me, it is about a one-sided foreign relations. Ok lang mga sundalo nila labas-pasok sa ating teritoryo while a senator of the Republic is barred from entering their territory due to their intentions of tinkering with our domestic affairs," Dela Rosa said.

Biazon said that it might not even be the Global Magnitsky Act that caused the cancelation of Dela Rosa's visa.

"I think the US made that decision to cancel the visa just on that ground that it’s their sovereign right to deny entry," he said.

The Global Magnitsky Act is a groundbreaking law allowing the US government to deny visa to human rights violators and corrupt officials in other countries, and freeze their assets as a form of targeted sanctions.