Philippines on losing end if it abrogates VFA, says former envoy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2021 10:35 AM

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MANILA - The Philippines will be on the losing end if it abrogates the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, a former ambassador said Friday.

Former Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. said Manila may be left to fend for itself from security threats if Washington decides to walk away from the military agreement.

"I think we will be at the losing end if they decide to walk away. Because without the VFA, they can't implement the Mutual Defense Treaty and EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). It hinders their ability to do that," he said when asked how the US would react to President Rodrigo Duterte's recent pronouncements about the VFA.

"I'm sure they don't want to lose the VFA. I'm sure they want to maintain strategic alliance with the Philippines. But if we become unreasonable, I think President [Joe] Biden's type is gonna walk away. I hope they don't underestimate that," he added.

Last week, Duterte said the US must "pay" if it wanted to keep the 2-decades-old troop deal, which governs the conduct of American troops while in the Philippines.

His spokesman described as "loose change" the military aid the Philippines was receiving from the US compared to other countries such as Pakistan.

Cuisia said the President should not forget that the VFA is a two-way street that benefits both countries.

"US is providing a security shield for the Philippines. Without the VFA, this may embolden China to continue with its aggressive expansion in the South China Sea," he said.

"They may in fact build a military base in Scarborough Shoal that will enable them to have complete control of South China Sea, which is of course going to be detrimental to the Philippines and other countries who have claims in South China Sea."

China claims most of the strategic waters as its territory. Other countries such as Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia have overlapping claims.

Cuisia also said it was unfair for Malacañang to compare the military assistance the Philippines had received to other countries.

"It's not fair because precisely Pakistan is a different situation. They have a much larger threat in terms of terrorism. We know what the Taliban had done over the years. So, it's not fair to make the comparison," he said.