MANILA – A Catholic prelate on Wednesday supported the decision of the government to suspend the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US).
Sorsogon Bishop Emeritus Arturo Bastes said President Rodrigo Duterte made the right decision to temporarily hold the scrapping of the military accord.
“For me, this is the right decision to suspend the termination of the VFA with (the) US because of the increasing aggressiveness of China in the Philippine marine territory. It is a fact that the Chinese are building concrete structures at the islands which rightfully belong to our country as decided by the (Permanent Court of Arbitration),” he said in a statement.
He, meanwhile, said he is in favor of keeping the VFA in effect.
“China is bullying not only the Philippines but also our neighboring countries in Asia. This country insolently disrespects International Law as though it owns the whole world! Hence, I am in favor of retaining the VFA,” Bastes added.
Also on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Manila seeks to continue its strong military partnership with Washington as it suspended the termination of the accord.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a diplomatic note dated June 1, informed the US embassy about the suspension of abrogation for half a year.
The VFA was originally scheduled to be revoked 180 days after Manila sent a formal notice of termination to Washington on February 11.
Locsin defended Duterte’s decision, noting that the suspension was in line with the developments in the region and the Philippines’ national interest.
In a separate interview, Philippine Ambassador in Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said the decision was influenced by several factors, including the coronavirus pandemic and recent developments in the South China Sea.
The VFA, established in 1999, provides a framework for defense forces cooperation that allows joint exercises between the Philippines and the US.
Duterte earlier threatened to scrap the pact following the cancelation of the US visa of his ally, former national police chief and Senator Ronald dela Rosa and the criticism of some American senators against the Philippine government’s anti-illegal drug campaign. (PNA)