The Visiting Forces Agreement has proven to be a patently one-sided pact that is an affront to our national sovereignty. Mere refinement, as Malacanang is suggesting, cannot save this agreement. The Aquino administration should, in the course of its review, and on the basis of national interest, abrogate the agreement.
Lawmakers from both chambers of Congress have called for the junking of the VFA. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines historically opposed the ratification of the pact. Women’s groups, lawyers and students have protested against the provisions of this one-sided agreement.
Eleven years since the VFA was passed, we have come to see the true intent of the agreement. The VFA has allowed US troops to remain in the country indefinitely, even absent an actual basing treaty. The VFA has been used by the US to regain lost ground from the Philippine Senate’s historic rejection of a new US bases treaty in 1991.
For all intents and purposes, the US troops have been stationed in Mindanao on a permanent and continuing basis since 2002. This was further confirmed by the August 2009 unilateral decision of the US government through Defense Secretary Robert Gates that 600 US Special Forces elements will be staying in Mindanao indefinitely.
Up to now, such a decision by the US has not been questioned by the Philippine government despite the obvious circumvention of the constitutional prohibition against foreign bases sans any treaty ratified by the Philippine Senate.
The problem with the VFA is not just the provisions on criminal jurisdiction. The whole agreement reeks of inequality; from the broad and vague provisions on what defines visiting US troops up to the mode by which the agreement was entered into. The VFA was ratified by as a treaty by the Philippine Senate but did not go through the same process in the US Senate. The VFA is being used to further US hegemonic interests in the region while the Philippines gets American military junk.
A “refinement” of the VFA would mean accepting the flawed framework and logic of the VFA.
It is time the Philippine government makes a stand for national interest and abrogate the VFA. Our national interests cannot be sacrificed just because our armed forces are so dependent on surplus military supplies from the US. ###