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VFA termination to have serious implications, Manila told

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US soldiers participate in the Amphibious Landing training as part of the 2018 Balikatan Exercises between the Philippines and the United States in Zambales Province, the Philippines, on May 9, 2018. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)

MANILA (Manila Times) – The US Embassy in Manila on Tuesday said the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States will have “significant” implications.

“This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance. We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests,” the embassy said in a statement.

“Our two countries enjoy a warm relationship, deeply rooted in history. We remain committed to the friendship between our two peoples,” it added.

The VFA promotes interoperability between the Philippine forces and US law enforcement agencies.

Through the agreement, the US helps the Philippines combat security threats such as trafficking in persons, cyberattacks and terrorism, and illegal narcotics through trainings, joint exercises and exchange visits.

With the termination of the VFA, the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between Manila and Washington will be reduced to a “mere paper treaty,” according to Senator. Panfilo Lacson.

Majority of the senators adopted on Monday Senate Resolution 312 – introduced by Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Lacson urging the President to reconsider his plan to rescind the VFA.

“Like it or not, bad or good, nothing much can be done now but do a 180-day countdown upon receipt of the notice by Washington,” said Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defense.

“There’s no more intelligence information sharing in our fight against domestic and foreign terrorist acts, no more US military aid and financing accounting for a good 52 percent of what they extend to the whole Asia-Pacific region. That may not include other intangible economic benefits and security from external threats in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Sotto said the presidency and the Senate have their roles in foreign affairs. “We represent the same nation but we can differ in perspectives. We believe in maintaining cordial relations with friends and allies.”

“If the VFA is terminated, the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) cannot stand alone, because the basis of the EDCA is the VFA, and if the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot be effective,” Drilon said.

If the VFA and EDCA are no longer effective, the MDT would serve no purpose, he added.

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