Are we ready to discard mutual defense treaty? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 26 November 2010 13:30

Amid calls to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile stressed on Tuesday a need to determine whether the Philippines is ready to discard the mutual defense treaty (MDT) that led to the signing of the VFA with the United States.

”Can we do it alone in this world if we are going to cut off our relationship with the US,” Enrile asked during the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA meeting at the Philippine Senate in Pasay City.

”I said relationship because the VFA is simply an implementation of mutual defense treaty. If we don’t have MDT, we don’t have VFA. We have to go back to the nature of the MDT. Are we ready to discard the MDT?” Enrile further inquired.

Enrile made his inquiry after Senator Joker Arroyo questioned the benefits that the Philippines earned in having the VFA with the United States.

”What benefit are there. Zero the US helped us in military crisis. What they gave us is a little engineering battalion and construction and all that,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo said the presence of the US troops in the country would antagonize China which has been described as the emerging economic power not only in Asia but in the world.

”If we do not find US troops beneficial or that US troops in the Philippines would antagonize China, why should we continue,” Arroyo said.

LOVFA co-chair Senator Loren Legarda acknowledged that more questions than answers have been raised in the initial meeting of the legislative oversight committee.

”It brought about a lot of questions that make us necessitates more hearings, broad base hearings,” Legarda told the media after the hearing.

Legarda said other stakeholders including the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local government units (LGUs) which hosted the US troops while doing humanitarian works in the country will be invited in the next hearing.

”It was a first hearing. It was an organizational in nature and a briefing at the VFA commission clearly many provocative issues and realistic assessment of what is happening today will bring about more hearings in the future,” Legarda said.

Legarda said whether or not the VFA must be retained or terminated will be determined by the weight of the advantages against the drawbacks of the treaty to the country and to the Filipino people.

Regarding the issue on conducting a parallel review of the MDT, Legarda said the matter has yet to be discussed formally in the Senate.

Presidential Commission on the VFA chair and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. promised to review more profoundly the issues including the inputs and questions raised during the hearing.

”This has more or less a lot of information and will be helpful in our review. Most of this information came from season and well experience officials and politicians and we respect all their views and these will be definitely be considered and it’s a big, big consideration or factor in the process of our review,” Ochoa said.

Legarda said the VFA commission has been given until end of the year to submit the report of its review on the one-decade old agreement.