Isko Moreno vows to seek 'stronger' VFA with US

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2021 11:48 PM

MANILA - Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Wednesday said he would push for a "stronger" Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States if he wins the presidency in the 2022 national elections.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to terminated the VFA - which governs the conduct of US troops on Philippines soil - after the United States canceled the visa of his ally Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, who is also a contender in next year's presidential race.

"I will continue to recognize our treaties," he said in online forum Kapihan sa Manila Bay.

"In fact, papalakasin ko pa ang (I will strengthen the) VFA so we can continue to equip our military, Armed Forces, learn many things and hopefully they can borrow armaments that will protect Filipinos," he said.

Since 2020, Duterte and his officials have been issuing flip-flopping statements on the VFA with its traditional ally, the United States.

Aside from honoring the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), the Manila mayor said he plans to "revive the impression of European countries" about the Philippines.

"We want to win back their trust. We will be certain with our contracts, with our rules," the Mayor said.

Domagoso did not specify why he thinks European countries had a negative view of the Philippines, but President Rodrigo Duterte made headlines for being the first Filipino president to face a case before the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court for his administration's bloody war on drugs.

"FDI (foreign direct investments) is going to be a challenge for the next administration because of some impressions... We need to win their hearts," he said.

In the early part of his maiden term as Manila mayor, Domagoso attended several luncheons, dinner banquets and other social functions with the business sector to entice entrepreneurs to re-invest in the capital city.

The "marketing rally" earned the capital city an additional P100 billion in investments, Domagoso said.

Manila had at least P20 billion worth of businesses before 2019, but the amount of investments in the city soared at least P120 billion in 2019 and P147 billion in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor said.

When Domagoso rose to power, he pushed for the passage of a city ordinance that would cut real estate tax rates in the capital by 40 percent in 3 years, and also implemented several tax amnesty programs.

"Anything that will ease doing of business, crating commerce and generate jobs, I will support that," he said.