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Visiting Forces (Dis)Agreement

04:00 AM February 20, 2020

Will President Trump return the favor and scrap the US’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the Philippines, too? It’s called VFA II. What the Philippines had with them, which the President recently terminated, was VFA I.

Yes, Virginia, there are two VFAs. The US has or had a similar instrument called Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) with other countries around the world with which it has active military engagements.

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It only had visiting rights in the Philippines since the condition was predicated on just mere visits, which ordinarily lasts only over a short and preagreed period of time. Nomenclatures that rhyme with the basing rights enjoyed by the US for nearly half a century, when it had US bases in Clark and Subic, are no longer countenanced under the 1987 Constitution — well, provided a qualification is met.

When the US president nonchalantly gave his seal of approval for the military agreement’s termination, it is not without the backdrop of huge monetary considerations. And when he said, “If they would like that, we’ll save a lot of money,” he was coming from the position of someone who dispenses largesse and showers allies and partners with massive aid and military assistance.

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Through the annual National Defense Authorization Act passed by the US Congress, the US government appropriates funds to support its overseas military missions, including the Philippines.

It sets aside a fraction of it, if not crumbs, for military exercises it undertakes with the Philippine Armed Forces, which explains the latter’s initial fazed reaction after the termination was announced.

At least one government agency’s facility key into the defense of the West Philippine Sea may lose an estimated P100 million, whose revenue goes straight into the government coffers should the agreement finally cease.

The country’s loss could be another country’s gains in some far-flung corner of the world, where funding support from the US could spell a difference between victory and defeat.

Brinkmanship is methodically used in negotiations, especially when the parties are on equal footing. The world had seen this played out during the administration of US President Dwight Eisenhower’s campaign against communism, and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which almost led to a nuclear war between the US and the former United Soviet Socialist Republic. In both instances, the US emerged victorious.

The “an eye for an eye” gambit could only be as effective as when both the protagonist and adversary are of the same height, where their eyeballs can meet. Otherwise, it may only backfire.

But what agreement made by men didn’t pass through fire and brimstone? In the end, both parties may be able to settle their disagreements amicably and go home happily. Is this what will ultimately happen to the VFA?

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TED PEÑAFLOR II

[email protected]

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TAGS: letter, PH-US relations, Ted Penaflor II, VFA, Visiting Forces Agreement
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