The recent decision by the Philippine government to form a presidential commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has sparked a lot of interest and debate both nationally and internationally. The VFA is an agreement between the United States and the Philippines that allows American troops to conduct training exercises and other operations on Philippine soil.
The commission, which will be headed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., is tasked with reviewing the VFA and making recommendations to President Rodrigo Duterte on whether to keep or terminate the agreement. This move comes after President Duterte threatened to scrap the VFA over the cancellation of a U.S. visa for his ally, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa.
The VFA has been in effect since 1999 and has been the subject of much controversy. Some Filipinos view it as a necessary alliance between two nations, while others see it as a violation of Philippine sovereignty. The VFA was thrust into the spotlight in 2014 when a U.S. Marine was accused of killing a transgender Filipino woman in Olongapo City. The case sparked widespread protests and calls for the repeal of the agreement.
Supporters of the VFA argue that it is essential for maintaining the Philippines` security and stability in the face of regional threats. The U.S. military presence provides training and resources for Philippine forces, and also acts as a deterrent against external aggression. Additionally, the agreement enhances the economic ties between the two countries, with American military personnel contributing to the local economy through the purchase of goods and services.
Critics, however, argue that the VFA undermines Philippine sovereignty and allows the U.S. military to act with impunity. There have been several instances of American troops committing crimes while in the Philippines, and some Filipinos believe that the U.S. military should be subject to Philippine laws just like any other foreign national.
The presidential commission on the VFA will have a lot to consider as they review the agreement. They will need to weigh the benefits of the alliance against the potential risks and drawbacks. They will also need to consider the political implications of terminating or renegotiating the VFA, especially given the close relationship that President Duterte has cultivated with China.
In conclusion, the formation of the presidential commission on the VFA is a significant development in the ongoing debate over the agreement. Their findings and recommendations will have far-reaching implications for the Philippines` relationship with the United States and its allies, as well as for the country`s own security and sovereignty. It remains to be seen what the commission`s ultimate decision will be, but one thing is certain – the VFA will continue to be a contentious issue for years to come.