Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday, February 3, urged President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement between the country and the United States until the Senate has time to review the impact of withdrawing from the deal.
The VFA, which came into force in 1999, covers the conduct of U.S. soldiers in the Philippines.
The provisions of the deal include lax visa and passport policies for U.S. troops, and the rights of the U.S. government to retain its jurisdiction over its military personnel when they commit crimes in the Philippines.
On Jan. 23, Duterte threatened to scrap the VFA following the U.S.’ cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s visa. He gave the U.S. a month to “correct” the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa, however, he ordered the start of the termination process the following day.
For their part, Sotto and Lacson filed Senate Resolution 312 which expresses the “sense of the Senate to earnestly request the president to reconsider his planned abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement in the meantime that the Senate is conducting a review and impact assessment in view of ensuring the continued safety and security of the Philippines and the Asia Pacific and maintaining the existing balance power in the region.”
And while the senators recognize Duterte’s authority to terminate treaties and agreements, they stated in the resolution that “the Senate should be given the opportunity to conduct a review and assessment of the impact of the withdrawal on the country’s security and economy.”
The Senate has yet to vote on the resolution.
According to Sotto, most of his colleagues in the upper chamber of Congress are not in favor of terminating the VFA with the U.S.