Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr wants the country’s military forces to see the positive side of Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) abrogation.
“I want everybody to know that it will not affect us; instead, it will make us self-reliant,” the AFP chief said.
Santos also said that he told lawmakers “that with the termination of the VFA, we really need their support to fill in the gaps.”
In an earlier report, Santos said about 50% of more than 300 joint military activities between the US and the AFP would be affected by the VFA termination.
Mindanao military offices also expressed their concern over the possible loss of US support for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities against Islamic State terrorists who are still lurking in Mindanao.
Santos admitted that ending the pact “will create some gaps” in the Philippines’s defense capability.
VFA abrogation is final
Meanwhile, Jose Manuel Romualdez, the Philippine Ambassador to Washington, said President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to end the 21-year-long VFA with the US is final.
However, Romualdez said both countries would still work out on “something else” to continue their military-to-military relations.
“I think ‘save the VFA’ is not the word we use; it’s how we move forward from this,” said Romualdez.
“When the President ordered the termination of the VFA, we took that to mean that is his final decision … So we will all abide by it, of course. We will just find ways to be able to continue our relationship,” he added.
Romualdez remained optimistic that the US and the Philippines would eventually come up with a new military agreement.
“I’m sure there will be something else that we’ll be able to work out between our militaries,” Romualdez said.
On February 11, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin signed and delivered the notice of termination of the VFA.
“As of now, I have not heard of any moves [to renegotiate]. But this is very early for us to make any comment for now. The termination was just handed last week. We will wait and see what their reaction and what the US wants to do,” Romualdez said.