2021 budget of panel overseeing VFA implementation cut by more than half: Locsin

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 08 2020 08:16 PM

MANILA - The 2021 budget of the commission overseeing the implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States has been slashed by more than half even if the Philippines suspended the abrogation of the accord, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., said Thursday.

The Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces' (PCVF) budget for next year is P12 million, more than 50 percent lower than the initial proposal of P28 million, Locsin said during a Senate budget hearing.

"The PCVF's budget must reflect the fact that we have abrogated the VFA," Locsin said, referring to the Duterte government's move in February this year to terminate the 1998 accord that governs the conduct of American troops in the Philippines.

"We nearly suspended it (VFA) so I think I've cut it down to P12 million," he said. In June, Manila decided to suspend the abrogation the VFA “in light of political and other developments in the region.”

Locsin said the P12-million funding for the PCVF is "adequate" for the office to carry out its mandate next year.

"Believe me, no power in the region is anything but relieved that we have suspended the abrogation... But the President's order stays and we must respect it," Locsin said.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA earlier this year after the United States revoked the 10-year visa of administration Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa enforced Duterte's deadly war on drugs when he served as chief of the Philippine National Police at the start of the current administration. The US government has criticized the campaign, with some officials saying it disregarded human rights.

In July, dela Rosa said the US embassy in Manila has agreed to process his American visa.