VFA’s (Ir) relevance at present times

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, November 26, 2010-Shall we or shall we not?


This is the $64-question that nags our national consciousness when it comes to the issue of the Visiting Forces Agreement whose relevance – or the lack of it – begs intellectual exchange among our people in government and society.


Sen. Loren Legarda, Chair, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Co – Chair, LOVFA was right in stating that an issue of great significance that lies before the Committee is whether our continued adherence to the VFA with the US remains in the national interest.


She cannot be more accurate when she said that this issue has “brought divergent views from all sides, and resolving it would certainly require that the Committee receives accurate information and engages in intelligent deliberation.”


She goes on saying that the Philippines has been a strategic partner to the United States since the Second World War. The steady ties between the two countries gave way to the signing of military bases agreement in 1947. Further to this, we agreed to enter into a Visiting Forces Agreement with the US on February 10, 1998 after two years of negotiations.”


The Senate concurred in the ratification, after much debate, aiming to promote defense cooperation between the Philippines and the US and thus enhance the tactical, strategic and technological capabilities of our armed forces.


But the question that begs to be answered is: is the VFA still necessary in our daily lives? What has it done to become relevant in our present time?


I do not presume to be an expert on the issue or one knowledgeable about its pros and cons. But given the hues and cries coming from various quarters, I am compelled to throw my two cent’s worth on the issue, taking into consideration the larger picture of Philippine-American diplomatic relations.


With 12 years of VFA in our midst, I think it would be hard to imagine the country without a VFA to speak of when we talk of bilateral relations between the two countries. The VFA has preoccupied much of the discussions in recent months that it has become synonymous with issues about the US and the Philippines in the larger context of external relations.


To the discerning eye, one might say that the VFA is tied up to aids coming from the US government and inevitably, the accord comes into focus when one considers the strengthening of relations between ours and Uncle Sam. The VFA, thus, is a “necessary evil” that our government must deal with and possibly, cannot live without. The agreement has been internalized in our diplomatic relations that to abrogate it would be tantamount to severing our ties with our perennial benefactor in terms of preventing their forces from engaging in friendly war exercises with their Filipino counterparts.


Of course, the US government would not admit it but the VFA has become a bargaining chip in the mutual cooperation between the two countries. It is hard to imagine for both countries to exercise the same diplomacy and oneness of purpose without the VFA which is the tie that binds both of us.


Whether we like it or not, relevant or irrelevant, the VFA is here to stay, no matter the protestations of our so-called nationalists. (Jason de Asis)