Duterte orders formal notification of VFA termination to US

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

February 7, 2020, 9:38 pm

<p>President Rodrigo Duterte</p>

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to transmit the Philippines’ formal notification to the United States (US) with regard to its termination of the 22-year-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Malacañang announced on Friday.

The President’s order came a day after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. warned that the revocation of the VFA might have a “negative” impact on the Philippines.

“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) is instructing (Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to tell (Locsin) to send the notice of termination to the US government,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

Inked by the Philippines and the US on Feb. 10, 1998, the VFA serves as an agreement that stipulates how American forces should be treated in the Philippines.

The agreement exempts US troops from passport and visa regulations, and also allows them to use their permits and licenses in the Philippines.

Washington also retains jurisdiction over US military personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines, unless the offenses are punishable in the host country.

Duterte’s termination of VFA was in retaliation for US senators' interference in the case of Senator Leila de Lima who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City due to her involvement in illegal drugs.

Panelo said the President is also scheduled to have a phone call with US President Donald Trump “anytime soon.”

He, however, did not mention the possible issues that might be discussed between Duterte and Trump.

On January 30, Panelo said terminating the VFA is a “studied” and “tactical” decision.

Panelo also said Duterte had no choice but scrap the VFA because of the “brazen interference” and “disrespect” of the US Senate for the Philippines’ judicial system. (PNA)