Cabinet members have misgivings about PH-US VFA abrogation

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Some Cabinet  members of President Rodrigo Duterte have misgivings on the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the Unifed States, but they were just scared to voice them out,   Senator Panfilo Lacson said.

“Many were scared of the President. They were expressing,  but you know, but they were always measuring it up on how to  bring it with attention, how to persuade him or dissuade him from proceeding in the abrogation… Sa tingin nila made up na ‘yung mind ni Presidente,” Lacson said in   Kapihan sa Senado on Thursday.

“They have reservations on the termination,” said Lacson.

When pressed how many  Cabinet officials he was referring to, Lacson said not more than 10. He added that he was able to learn about these Cabinet members’ sentiments after he had informal talks with them.

The  Philippine government sent the notice of termination of the two-decade old VFA, which governs the conduct of visiting US personnel holding military exercises in the Philippines.

Lacson also merely shrugged off the assurance  by the military and police that the Philippines can boost its defense capabilities despite the termination of the VFA.

Since the President had already spoken about its termination, Lacson said this can be considered a mere acquiescence.

“What do you expect? Of course the Presodent hd decided. Alangan naman kumontra pa, we are not trained that way sa military and sa police,” he said.

“In our practice, when the commander-in-chief said this is the decision, we also court. So they will also court the decision of the President–right or wrong. That’s the decision,” he further said.

Duterte said the police and the military assured him that the Philippines can boost its defense capabilities without the assistance of the United States.

Lacson admitted  that severing  ties with the US troops would also affect the maintenance of the military equipment in the country.

“The tangible and intangible benefits we were getting from the VFA were so huge. The Philippine Air Force alone, in the Armed Forces, the air assets we’re getting, if  the VFA was cut, many will be affected because  most of our equipment came from United States and we cannot change that anymore,” he said.

“Paano ‘yung repairs, ‘yung maintenance ng mga helicopter, mga C-130, medyo mahihirapan tayo,” he also asked

Further questioned if  it caused some sectors to have low morale, Lacson replied, “Hindi mo maalis kasi different opinions, depending on where they are coming from.”

“Of course, their morale will be  affected especially in the military and police since they, more or less directly, if you remove VFA, it’s as if you stripped naked the Mutual Defense Treaty,” he also said.

Once the VFA is formally terminated, he said that  the MDT will just be as good as a paper treaty.  He warned that it can no longer be implemented.

“It’s just there, maybe they will not abrogate unilaterally but they cannot use this as a treaty that is being implemented since they want  protection. But there’s no saying that the VFA is the same,” said Lacson./ Stacy Ang

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