First, just so it is clear where I’m coming from: I am not pro- or anti-American, as in actual fact, they took away my US visa a long time ago. Nor am I pro- or anti-Chinese since I have many friends in and out of Beijing.
That said, the President’s change of heart is a welcome development as far as defense and economic security of the country is concerned. The Philippines needs the Visiting Forces Agreement especially now that Chinese intrusions into our territory, particularly in the West Philippines Sea, have become commonplace.
The last thing that we should lose is the balance of power that the USA, among other allies like Australia and other ASEAN neighbors, can provide to suit our national interest and territorial integrity.
It is a no-brainer that we can’t stand on our own and protect ourselves from harassment coming from those intrusions.
In an interview on DWIZ, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– lifting of travel ban on Taiwan
– issues involving P/Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido
– possible actions after VFA abrogation
– franchise of ABS-CBN
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.
“Be it resolved as it is hereby resolved, to express as it hereby expresses the sense of the Senate to earnestly request the President to reconsider his planned abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement in the meantime that the Senate is conducting a review and impact assessment with the end in view of ensuring the continued safety and security of the Philippines and the Asia Pacific and maintain the existing balance of power within the region.” (co-author with Senate President Sotto and Sen. Drilon)
An indefinite travel ban to the United States imposed on all members of the Cabinet could have adverse consequences on our country’s economy and security, not to mention the many employed Filipino immigrants there, especially if the US retaliates to the recent tirades of President Duterte.
The Philippines is exporting at least $10 billion worth of goods annually to the US, and accounts for 52 percent of the total US military support and assistance to the entire Asia-Pacific region.
Considering all these, I hope some of the Cabinet members will have the courage and sensibility to speak to the President to reconsider.
Allowing and denying the entry of foreigners into the territory of the United States, or any country for that matter, is a matter of right of that host country. They don’t even have to justify it.
What is unacceptable is the passage of a resolution by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that calls for the dismissal of charges against any respondent in a criminal case, in this case, Sen. de Lima and Maria Ressa. It is an affront to the integrity of our courts and the country’s judicial system. Even the President or any executive official, or any member of our Congress, cannot issue a formal resolution that will encroach on the power of a co-equal branch of government.
It is a good development that the President has subsequently corrected himself by saying that he cannot prevent incursions of foreign fishing vessels within the Exclusive Economic Zone because even if he wants to, we don’t have the capability nor the capacity to do it, not to mention that the arbitral ruling is unenforceable in the first place; and that the Philippines merely exercises sovereign right, not sovereignty over the areas within the EEZ. I agree with the President in this regard. Having said that, to allow is not the same as not being able to prevent.
Further, calling on the United States – with whom we have a Mutual Defense Treaty – and other western allies to help check China in the WPS is proper given the prevailing circumstances, contrary to some narrow-minded critics that such move is a sure formula for war.
On the other hand, maintaining the balance of power in the WPS will prevent rather that ignite war. Why? No two superpowers would go to war in this day and age of nuclear technology for the simple reason of its ‘zero-sum’ outcome.