November 9, 2009
MANILA – The task of revising the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) now falls on the next president of the Philippines after Malacañang officials said they will reaffirm defense ties with the US when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Manila this week, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Monday.
Pangilinan, who is backing a Senate resolution to review the VFA, said President Arroyo’s desire to shore up support from the US means that there will be no changes on the present terms of the treaty.
“We then therefore have to look to the next administration to push for a review and a refining or revising of this document so that it falls square behind our Constitution. At this point, there’s not much to be expected from the Arroyo administration,” the senator said in an ANC interview.
Pangilinan said the president is the chief architect of Philippine foreign policy and as such has the power to call for a review of the VFA. He said one particular issue that should be tackled during Clinton’s visit is the issue of foreign troop deployment in the Philippines.
“They [US troops] should just be visiting but they don’t want to leave. They just keep changing the troops. Now would be a golden opportunity to tackle [the VFA] but Malacañang doesn’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want the US to get angry,” he said.
The Senate earlier issued a resolution urging Malacañang to give a notice of termination of the VFA in case there is an objection from the US to the renegotiation.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement, earlier said the VFA is not giving the country any substantial benefit and violates the Constitution. She also called for an investigation into a supplemental accord she dubbed VFA 2 that was not submitted to the Senate for ratification.
Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar on Sunday said President Arroyo and her defense officials were expected to express their “strong support” for the VFA when Clinton arrives in Manila.
Ratified as a treaty by the Philippines in 1999, the VFA outlines the rules governing the conduct of US troops participating in joint military exercises here.
It has been used to justify the presence of US troops on the southern island of Mindanao where they are helping train Philippine forces against Al Qaeda-linked militants.
“Obviously, the VFA will be a very big topic because that is very important to the Americans,” Olivar said. “We would welcome Clinton as the representative of our longest and most ardent supporter, the United States.”
Ties between the allies are on the mend after Philippine legislators threatened to review the treaty amid public uproar over a controversial rape case involving a US Marine.
US Marines’ Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was convicted of raping a Filipina in November 2005. He was given a 40-year sentence in December 2006 but was discreetly transferred to a facility inside the US embassy compound.
Public uproar that followed saw near-daily street protests demanding that Smith be held in a local jail. Smith won an appeal in April after the woman recanted her story in a bizarre twist of events. — With Agence France-Presse
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