MANILA — Following the unilateral abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States by President Duterte, efforts are now allegedly being done by the administration to craft a replacement, Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said at a forum Friday.
“We are now in the process of trying to find ways and means to be able to see how we can either come up with something similar, perhaps, again, still following the President’s thinking about the sovereignty issue,” Romualdez said.
The forum organized by Stratbase-ADR Institute for Strategic and International Studies (ADRi).
Romualdez added that his counterpart in US Ambassador Sung Kim, who is currently in the US, is also studying the possibility of using standing visiting forces agreements with Japan and Australia the Philippines have as template for what could be a new deal with the US.
“The Japan SOFA (status of forces agreement) is one of those recommended for study and also I think we have SOVFA (status of visiting forces agreement) with Australia. These are the two existing agreements with other countries,” Romualdez explained.
PH’s envoy to US also said the new proposal he is crafting with Kim would be an option for the President to consider.
But Romualdez said it will be the military that will present the proposed agreement to Duterte.
“But again the bottom line always falls on sovereignty and that is the reason why it is a very ticklish and very sensitive issue for both our countries in discussing what we want to do in moving forward,” Romualdez said.
Pentagon officials, Romuladez added, are “extremely concerned” about what would happen after the VFA abrogation. But at the same time, the envoy also expressed doubts that Duterte would scrap the MDT.
President Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA following the cancellation of the visa of one of his closest allies, Sen. Ronaldo dela Rosa aside from other reasons like the US meddling of internal affairs of the administration particularly on its order to release incarcerated Senator Leila de Lima on drug charges and to go easy on the case of Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa.
Sen. dela Rosa is a former chief of the Philippine National Police. (IAmigo/sovereignph.com)