MANILA – Several senators on Wednesday welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to temporarily suspend the abrogation of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States amid current national, regional and international developments.
Senator Francis Tolentino said suspending the abrogation of the VFA “is indeed an extremely positive development” that reflects President Duterte’s “sincere dedication” to the welfare of the country, as well as his “humility” in assigning greater weight to the long history of alliance and strong relations that the country had established with the US.
“I recognize and admire the wisdom of the President, as the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy, for keeping his judgment anchored on the supremacy of national interest and affirming his resolve to safeguard the life and liberty of the Filipino people,” Tolentino said in a privilege speech.
He likened the President’s decision to adjusting his sail in to be able to navigate his ship through dangerous waters, having premised his decision on “prevailing political and other developments in the region.”
“Flexibility is at the heart of effective leadership, and effective leadership is central to good governance,” Tolentino said.
He said the resumption of the VFA opens up a multitude of fresh opportunities that strengthen national security and helps deters threats from outside our boundaries for the time being.
“As the world enters into the ‘new normal,’ we welcome this recent development… which serves as an opportunity for both nations to foster a more strengthened bond of friendship between the Philippines and the United States, a pact forged by the blood of our forefathers for the peace and security in the country and the region,” Tolentino said.
Flexibility on foreign policies was also emphasized by another administration lawmaker in welcoming the suspension of the VFA abrogation.
“Foreign policies can be flexible at times depending on the realities obtained in the bilateral, regional, or global arena of foreign relations. That suspension of termination is a welcome development,” Senator Ronald dela Rosa said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the President’s change of heart is a welcome development as far as “defense and economic security” of the country is concerned.
“The Philippines needs the VFA especially now that Chinese intrusions into our territory, particularly in the West Philippines Sea, have become commonplace,” he said in a statement.
“The last thing that we should lose is the balance of power that the USA, among other allies like Australia and other ASEAN neighbors, can provide to suit our national interest and territorial integrity,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also welcomed Duterte’s “sudden policy change.”
“The unhampered implementation of the VFA will serve the interest of our country, particularly with regard to the preservation of our rights over parts of the West Philippine Sea,” he said in a separate statement.
Drilon also reiterated that abrogating the VFA amid the increasing aggressiveness and the bullying of China is disadvantageous to the Philippines.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said he is in favor of “having a VFA at this time, maybe for another 50 years or until we are economically strong and militarily capable to defend ourselves.”
For Senator Sonny Angara, shelving the abrogation of the VFA is the “safer, more cautious and considered decision” in this time of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) “when it helps to be friends with all nations and given some of the recent developments.”
Senator Richard Gordon echoed his colleagues’ sentiments.
“It is not a time for breaking up relations but a time for cooperation, especially longstanding friendships. We have to continue to develop our ties with the United States. We have had a long history, bumpy as it is,” he said in a press statement.
He said Duterte’s decision is also indicative of the President’s “open-mindedness and willingness” in reviewing decisions that impact the country’s national interest.
Gordon pointed out that with the situation in China and the Asia Pacific region likely to get more volatile, “it would be to the country’s best interest to continue to develop its ties with the US.” (PNA)