The Manila Times : Marcos mulls 'redefining' VFA

By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times

PRESIDENT-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is considering "extending" and "redefining" the country's Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US), citing the "changing environment" in the region.

Marcos raised this possibility following his meeting with US Charges d' Affaires Heather Variava, where they discussed security issues between the Philippines and the US.

"Siyempre security concerns pinag-usapan namin (Of course we are talking about security concerns), the return or the re-signing or the extension of the VFA agreement and how it has to be redefined for the near future with the changing situation around the world, especially in our region," Marcos told reporters in a press briefing on Monday.

Marcos said that security concerns "have always been a big part of our relations with the United States."

He said that any assistance from the US to help the Philippine economy is always welcome.

"Of course we will welcome any assistance for the economy that we can get from the United States. But I thought… I said not only a dependence on aid on the United States but also on trade… so to open again, the bureaucracy, this administration, to the possibilities of private partnership, joint venture from the Philippines," he said.

In June last year, President Rodrigo Duterte extended for another six months the suspension of the abrogation of the country's VFA with the US.

The President decided to extend the suspension to further study the move "while both sides address his concerns regarding particular aspects of the agreement," according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

The President terminated the agreement in February 2020. The termination process, however, was suspended in June last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and emerging threats in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippine government again held off the suspension in November 2020.

The VFA, which took effect in 1999, provides the legal framework for the presence of American troops in the Philippines as they conduct joint military exercises.

Meanwhile, Marcos said they also discussed the assistance that the US can provide the country to mitigate the impact of climate change.

"Primarily one of the first subjects we came upon were the assistance that the United States is offering to mitigate climate change in the different countries at very active sila, they want to take a leadership role in the mitigation of the effects of climate change, of global warming," Marcos said.

Aside from Variava, Marcos also met with Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko, South Korea Ambassador Kim Inchul, and India Ambassador Shambhu S. Kumaran.