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VFA here to say

June 05, 2020 - Friday 4:06 AM by MDM

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The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is here to stay. At least that is the underlying message that can be discerned from the recent decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend its abrogation.

This decision is actually not unexpected. In truth, the relationship of both countries has been rock-solid since this country transitioned from a former United States colony to a full-fledged republic in 1946.

In a manner of saying, Duterte’s earlier manifestations to abrogate the treaty do not actually reflect government policy. That never was the intention. His manifestations were clearly meant to underscore his displeasure at the decision of the US government not to proceed with the sale of helicopters that would have ramped up his country’s bid to protect its borders and to crush terrorism.

Otherwise, the bonds that tie both countries remain in force. Chief of this is Mutual Defense Treaty between both countries that has been binding since 1951. The treaty binds each country to come to each other’s defense in case of foreign attack. 

Article II of that agreement goes direct to the point: “In order more effectively to achieve the objective of this Treaty, the parties separately and jointly by self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”

The 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries is also binding.

The EDCA supposedly was designed to promote interoperability, capacity building towards AFP modernization, strengthening AFP for external defense, maritime security, maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response between the host country and the United States.

This latest move on the part of the Duterte administration is a step in the right direction.

It also comes as an expression of solidarity in the face of both countries’ efforts to battle COVID-19 pandemic. Hats off to its timing.