By Du Wenlong
The Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. made a statement on November 11 to suspend for the second time its decision to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US for six months.
The VFA is a military agreement signed by the Philippines and the US in 1998, including many clauses that allow the US military forces to stay and train at combat bases and ports in the Philippines. It is an important bond of military exchanges between the two countries.
The VFA allows American combat forces to station and train in the Philippines. Through their joint training, the Philippine forces hope to improve their so-called island-seizing and landing operation capabilities, while American forces have a mind to hone and enhance their overseas combat capabilities, especially the landing operation capability in coastal areas.
In February this year, the Philippine government announced to terminate the VFA with the US, but it on June 1 halted the termination for six months due to the “political and other developments in the region”. Now as the six-month halt of termination is about to expire, Manila again announced to extend the abrogation for another six months.
The Philippines only suspended the termination, not renewed the agreement, mainly because Washington has been throwing growing pressure on Manila and made many unreasonable demands, including stationing troops in the Philippines and interfering in its affairs, criticizing Manila’s deployment of military forces to combat terrorism and crack down on drugs at home, and pointing fingers at Manila for its rightful actions to safeguard national sovereignty.
“Visiting and stationing troops” in a country on the one hand and blaming its rightful actions, including military actions, to safeguard national sovereignty on the other – this is what the US has done to the Philippines. That Washington conditions bilateral exchanges on damaging the other side’s sovereignty and security is unacceptable to Manila and has caused discontent and indignation.
Going forward, the US-Philippines VFA is likely to remain turbulent. The Philippines has mixed feelings toward the US, especially its military assistance. It needs America’s military assistance, but in the meantime, it is highly dissatisfied with America’s groundless criticism and crude interference in its sovereign affairs.
The VFA is an agreement through which Washington and Manila make use of each other. The Philippines hasn’t wholly scrapped the VFA, but it won’t follow America’s lead on everything either. All it can do now is suspending the agreement and weakening their military ties.
(The author Du Wenlong is a retired senior colonel who had been engaged in research works about military construction under China’s PLA Academy of Military Sciences. He is now a special commentator for the CCTV military channel.)