Manila (25 November) -- Whether or not the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States of America (USA) must be retained or terminated will be determined by the weight of the advantages against the drawbacks of the treaty to the country and to the Filipino people, Senator Loren Legarda said.
Legarda, Co-Chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA (LOVFA), said many provocative issues and realistic assessments of the actual implementation of the VFA were raised during the panel's first hearing on the issue of reviewing the VFA.
"This hearing brought about other issues that we need to consider in reviewing the VFA. Aside from the issues regarding jurisdiction and custody, frequency and duration of the stay of the US Forces in the country, and the kind of activities being done, we must review the VFA in the light of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and assess it as well based on the prevailing security situation and the new geo-political landscape," Legarda said.
"Furthermore, we should not only consider the quantifiable benefits of the treaty, such as how many trainings were conducted, how many equipment were turned-over, or how much financial aid in dollars was given. We also have to look into its social and environmental impact, and the effects in our community and in the lives of our people," she added.
Regarding the issue on conducting a parallel review of the MDT, Legarda said it is a matter that the Senate has yet to discuss formally since the only resolution formally pending in the Senate is the review of the VFA.
"We are reviewing first the VFA, but the VFA does not exist in isolation, it came about because of the MDT. Although we are not in the path of reviewing the MDT per se, we can look back at the events that transpired then, which gave birth to the MDT, and compare it with the situation at present," the Senator explained.
"At the time the MDT was signed in 1951, it was the time of the Cold War, our foes were different then. Today, our enemies are poverty, pollution and environmental degradation, disasters, climate change, and many other economic and social crises that have arisen through the years. This will require a great amount of consensus and shared understanding of how these things may be confronted. But in the end, these debates on the pros and cons of these agreements would ultimately lead us to the number one thing we must always consider?the national interest," Legarda concluded. (PIA-MMIO)