THE termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States will not affect the country’s military efforts, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) head.

“I would like everybody to know this is the decision of the president and I want everybody to know how it will affect us, it will not affect us, instead it will make us self-reliant,” AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. told officers and soldiers during his first visit to Zamboanga City as as military chief.

While Santos admitted that once the VFA is officially terminated, there will be anticipated gaps in the training of personnel and supply of equipment. However, he said that the Philippines’ other allies like Australia can fill them through the Status of the Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA).

Santos also called for the approval of the SOVFA as it would allow Australian forces to hold joint exercises with Filipino soldiers.

“We need that. Interoperability with our Asian countries like South Korea which we have already an agreement and we will further the agreement with the SOVFA for exercises,” he said.

Santos said that the country could sustain itself without the VFA and will continue its long-standing relationship with the U.S military.

“And with our new equipment, I think we could defend our country. We could live without it (VFA). The modernization will push through together with other programs and enhancing our organization,” he said.

A military official, who asked not to be named, shared Santos’ sentiments.

“Well, we could not deny that they have been helping us in our various security efforts, particularly in our campaign against the local terrorist groups, like the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangasamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). They complement our ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and technical capabilities,” the official told the Philippine Star.

“They (U.S.) have been supporting us. The more the merrier, so they say. But it does not mean we cannot survive with their pullout. We can continue to survive, despite the reduction on technical capabilities and other support systems to include medical evacuation,” he added. 

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