VFA termination 'reboot' of PH-US military ties - diplomat

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 18 2020 07:25 PM

MANILA - Scrapping the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is a "reboot" of long-standing military ties between the Philippines and the United States, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babes" Romualdez said Tuesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the US-Philippines Society meeting, he said it would be "premature" to call the relationship between the two allies "damaged" and to speculate over repercussions on other military pacts between the Philippines and US- the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Romualdez said that while the VFA is an important document, it only covered the military relationship of the Philippines and United States.

What is important is that the overall relationship that spans decades remains strong, he added.

Romualdez said he would continue to engage with Washington to ensure its relations with Manila remain intact.

He, along with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., "will continue to do what we have to do in terms of assuring our friends in Washington, D.C. the relationship will remain intact, and we will continue to make sure it remains that way," Romualdez said. 

The Philippines recently terminated the VFA, a treaty that governs the conduct of US forces while in the country. The President ordered it scrapped after the US visa of his long-standing ally Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa was canceled. 

The move drew criticism, with a former top diplomat and envoy to the US calling the foreign policy pivot a "national tragedy."

US President Donald Trump shrugged off the Philippines' move, saying "we'll save a lot of money." Romualdez said such reaction was positive, as the latter clearly accepts the decision of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, former ambassador and US-Philippines Society member John Maisto said "the challenge for diplomats on both sides is to take where you are now, and move forward."

"We know the Philippines and US like and trust each other. We're going to build on that. The relationship will move forward," he said.

Another US-Philippines Society member Hank Hendrickson said the group's meeting in Manila also proved both nations remain interested in each other.

"The message is we are here. It is an important message in itself. The breadth of topics we took up over the past few days, it shows a deep interest," he said.

The US-Philippines Society is a non-profit, non-partisan civic organization made up of American and Filipino members. Its members include prominent business leaders, such as Jaime Augusto Zobel De Ayala, Enrique Razon and Manuel Pangilinan, and the late Washington SyCip. - Report from Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News