The Filipino people are resilient and our soldiers are no different. We will survive, no doubt. We know how to improvise and we can adapt to crises the way we did many times before.
But in the meantime, we remain exposed to terrorist threats, both domestic and foreign, not to mention the continuing security threat in the West Philippine Sea posed by China, and even the need for timely humanitarian response and assistance that the US is capable of deploying during disasters, natural or man-made. Also affected by the VFA’s abrogation is the maintenance and repairs of military hardware, mostly air assets provided by the US under the AFP modernization program.
Exploring other options like inking similar defense treaties with other nations as posited by the AFP Chief of Staff is fine but the reality is, it doesn’t happen overnight. It will take a series of back-and-forth negotiations in pursuit of the concerned parties’ self and national interests before going through lengthy deliberations for ratification by the Senate.
While admittedly, the VFA is not perfect for the Philippines as far as equitability is concerned, the timing and reasons for its abrogation are way off the mark.
The thing is, it is not the smartest move of the President to expose ourselves naked first before looking for other options for cover.
Like it or not, bad or good, nothing much can be done now but do a 180-day countdown upon receipt of the notice by Washington. What is certain is that the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty will now be reduced to a mere paper treaty as far as the US is concerned.
Having said that, there’s no more intelligence information sharing in our fight against domestic and foreign terrorist acts, no more US military aid and financing that accounts for a good 52% of what they extend to the whole Asia-Pacific region.
That may not include other intangible economic benefits and security from external threats in the West Philippine Sea, as well as humanitarian aid in times of disasters, epidemics and other crises.
The Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and United States is a BILATERAL accord that went through some back-and-forth diplomatic discussions prior to ratification by the Senate, after some intense plenary deliberation.
On the other hand, the US visa is a conditional authorization UNILATERALLY given to a visiting foreigner which may be granted, canceled or even denied outright, without need for explanation or justification.
In the absence of a Philippine Supreme Court ruling on the President’s power to unilaterally break a treaty or bilateral agreement like the VFA without the consent of a 2/3 supermajority vote of the members of the Senate, the President can do that without the Senate’s approval or consent.
Having said that, the Supreme Court should act soonest on whether the Senate’s consent is needed before the executive department can terminate a treaty or bilateral agreement – an issue raised in a petition filed before it by members of the Senate.
The US Embassy in Manila said the USS Carl Vinson is in the West Philippine Sea area to conduct “routine maritime operations, promote freedom of navigation, and work with partners and allies to enhance regional security and stability.” Philippine officials led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea visited the supercarrier earlier this month.
Carl Vinson Strike Group Arrives in Manila
PH, US officials visit USS Carl Vinson
On recent activities by China in the region
The United States’ decision to halt the planned sale of 26,000 rifles to the Philippine National Police was not a scare tactic but a bully attitude towards a longtime ally – which is not fair, the Philippines being an equally sovereign state.
Prudence dictates that the US State Department should first show a conclusive investigation that affirms what Sen. Benjamin Cardin has alleged before issuing a statement banning the sale of assault rifles to our uniformed services.
Though it may disrupt the implementation of the PNP’s Capability Enhancement Program (CEP), they should now start shopping in other territories for their armament requirements.
Taiwan, for example, has stopped buying their police firearms from the US and is now procuring their standard 9mm pistols from Germany, which they say are better and more suitable to their law enforcement needs. There are other sources like Israel, Belgium, even Russia and China.
First, I have yet to see an investigation with the conclusion that massive and state-sanctioned human rights violations were committed under the present regime’s drive against illegal drugs, so I would take US Sen. Cardin’s statement as his own opinion and nothing more.
Second, since it’s a planned sale of assault rifles by the US to the Philippines, we do not stand to lose anything except one less gun store to choose from. There are tens of other countries that manufacture better and probably cheaper assault rifles than the US.
Third, there is now more reason for our Department of National Defense to revive our self-reliance program so we can produce our own weapons and ammunition and other military hardware.
Any statement spoken by a country’s leader is always construed as a policy statement. Having said that, I don’t see any drastic change in the long-standing friendly relations between the Philippines and the United States. We are one of the United States’ strongest allies in the Asia-Pacific region, and it will stay that way.
Presidents come after elections and go after their terms end, while alliances between countries remain strong, especially between the United States and the Philippines. I hope our president will soon realize that diplomacy is always part and parcel of a country’s foreign policy and being the country’s leader, he shapes that policy.