Palace on ending VFA: Forget the review, Duterte stand final

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President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance on the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States will remain unchanged, Malacañang said as it shrugged off suggestions of a possible review of the two-decade-old military pact. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14)— President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance on the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States will remain unchanged, Malacañang said Friday as it shrugged off suggestions of a possible review of the two-decade-old military pact.

Wala na 'yun, kalimutan niyo na 'yun (forget about the review),” Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who also serves as the President’s chief legal counsel, told CNN Philippines’ The Source. “His position will be unchanged until the last day of his term.”

The VFA is the first of two agreements between Washington and Manila about the treatment of their troops when they are in the US or the Philippines.

The provisions of the 1998 deal include lax visa and passport policies for US troops, and rights of US government to retain jurisdiction over military personnel, among others.

Duterte pushed through with the termination of the VFA on Tuesday, even as the Senate and other government officials called for a thorough review of the military deal.

But former Senator Rodolfo Biazon said the Philippine government will still have time to look into the issue— 178 days to be exact— before the deal formally expires.

“Serving a notice of termination by the President, we still have 178 days for the conduct of a review. I agree with the proposition that we have to review,” Biazon, who helped craft the VFA, said in the interview.

If the move pushes through, Biazon said a review should not only cover VFA—but other military deals with the United States as well.

“We must extend the review to Mutual Defense Treaty and EDCA. The question is, do we need it? Do we need them? Considering the existing conditions and situations-- especially in the South China Sea,” the former official noted.

The Mutual Defense Treaty states that Manila and Washington would come to each other's defense in case of an attack by a foreign state. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, on other hand allows the US military to maintain barracks and weapons storage structures inside five military camps in the Philippines.

Is a review allowed within the 180-day period?

According to the agreement, expiration of the VFA will come 180 days from the formal notice of termination from either country.

Its provisions, however, do not include possible review— or reversal of decision — on the deal.

“This agreement shall enter into force on the date on which the parties have notified each other in writing through the diplomatic channel that they have completed their constitutional requirements for entry into force. This agreement shall remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement,” Article 9 of the VFA reads.

EXPLAINER: The Visiting Forces Agreement

United States President Donald Trump earlier said he was “fine” with the scrapping of the nations’ agreement, noting how their government will be able to save “a lot of money” with the development.

RELATED: Trump shrugs off PH decision to end military pact: We save money

US Defense Chief Mark Esper however shared a different sentiment, saying the Philippine government's move is a step in the “wrong direction.” 

MDT and EDCA scrapped?

With the formal termination of the VFA on the table, Panelo said other military deals— MDT and EDCA— may soon follow suit. The spokesperson said this is in line with Duterte’s wish for a more self-reliant government.

Ganoon na rin siguro, maaapektuhan, tatamaan din ‘yun. Which means baka mawala na rin ‘yun,” Panelo said of the two agreements.

[Translation: Maybe that’s what will happen. Those will be affected, which means they may also be scrapped.]

Panelo said Duterte wants the Philippines to stand on its own feet— particularly on defense issues— and to not rely on other countries.

“We have to strengthen our own resources, we have to be ourselves,” he said.

CNN Philippines' Alyssa Rola and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.