PH VFA with Australia addressed shortcomings of US agreement, expert says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — A geopolitical expert on Wednesday pointed out the difference between the Philippines’ visiting forces agreements (VFA) with the United States and Australia.

“We are looking into a more flexible, reoriented VFA with Australia and because it came much later, we were able to incorporate the shortcomings that we felt were there with the VFA with the US and have applied it proactively with that with Australia,” analyst Don McLain Gill told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Manila’s Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) with Australia was signed in 2007 and ratified in 2012, while the VFA with Washington was signed in 1998 and came into force in 1999.

Since the agreement with the US was made first, Gill said the Philippines was able to negotiate with Australia the challenges it encountered with the agreement with the former, which includes the jurisdiction issue.

The expert noted SOVFA “encompasses clear rules in addressing issues of concurrent jurisdiction.”

Sen. Loren Legarda, who was chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in the 15th Congress, said the “SOVFA was crafted in a manner that ensures respect for and ascendance of laws of the Receiving State.”

It also has a "clear set of rules" in case of "concurrent jurisdiction, or where an offense is punishable under the laws of both the Receiving and Sending States,” she added.

Gill also pointed out that SOVFA has a specific provision on the size of the visiting force, on the mutual adherence to environmental protection, and on the movement of vessels and aircraft.

In another interview, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the SOVFA is a partnership that has helped both countries to work together to grow their knowledge especially among military forces.

On Tuesday, Filipino and Australian troops launched their joint drills in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal as part of Exercise Kasangga. 2023.

Another batch of soldiers from the Australian Army is expected in June for the continuation of the joint exercises.