With the year 2020 being a tumultuous one throughout the world, exacerbated by the medical and health issues as well as financial and economic concerns confronting all countries due to the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Richard J. Gordon said the decision to suspend temporarily the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is a welcome development.
“The year already started out tempestuously – with intensified differences having sprung up in erstwhile relatively smooth international and bilateral relationships, terrorism remaining a serious problem. And now with this pandemic that we are facing, it is not a time for breaking up relations but a time for cooperation, especially longstanding friendships. We have to continue to develop our ties with the United States. We have had a long history, bumpy as it is,” he said.
Gordon said the decision is also indicative of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s open-mindedness and willingness in reviewing decisions that impact the country’s national interest, adding that the temporary suspension will enable the executive and legislative branches of the government to arrive at a common position on the concurrence and withdrawal procedure for treaties and international agreements.
Upon Duterte’s instruction, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) sent a diplomatic note dated June 1 to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, informing them of the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA with the United States “in light of political and other developments in the region.”
The senator pointed out that with the situation in China and the Asia Pacific region likely to get more volatile, it would be to the country’s best interest to continue to develop its ties with the US, which is building another military base in Mageshima, part of Japan’s Osumi Islands.
“In addition to their existing bases in Japan, they are going to put a base in place where there is an old airstrip and they’re going to be running planes out of there. So they’re near the West Philippine Sea. We have to be prepared for any eventuality because of the fragile situation in that area. That is why I have been calling for strengthening our own military capabilities,” he stressed.
The tension between the US and China is forecasted to escalate further given their competing interests across the globe in areas such as trade, technology and ideology. In his latest attack on Beijing, US President Donald Trump accused the Chinese government of intellectual property theft, covering up its mishandling of the Covid-19 outbreak and abandoning its commitments to the World Trade Organisation.
The tension is further fuelled by China’s growing military prowess, combined with a dogged assertiveness over its territorial claims in the disputed waters, where the U.S. has guaranteed freedom of navigation for decades, patrolling the seas with a view to maintaining the principle that no sovereign state shall suffer interference from another./Stacy Ang