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Philippine-American relations and the VFA



E CARTOON FEB 15, 2020
The Philippines finally served the United States a notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which governs the annual joint exercises of Filipino and American  troops in  implementation of two nations’ Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and Enhanced  Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (EMDCA).

The initial reaction of the Americans came  from US Defense Secretary Mark Esper. “II’s unfortunate that they would make this move,” he said. “I think it is a move in the wrong direction – for the longstanding relationship we have had with the Phiippines, for the its strategic location, the ties between our peoples, our countries.”

But Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra said: “We survived the termination of the 1947 RP-US Bases Agreement in 1992. There is no reason why we shall not  survive the  termination of a mere Visiting Forces Agreement.”

When the Philippines, after 43 years of American colonial rule  and  three years of Japanese occupation in World War II,  achieved its independence in 1946, the US maintained  a military presence in the country through  the Bases Agreement of 1947.

It  was opposed and resented by  Filipino nationalists but  it was accepted by the budding Philippine government, which was still dependent in so many ways on support from the US.  It was a time when the US  faced the Soviet Union in a “cold war” and  Philippines  accepted  its  role  as a part of the US-led democratic world against rising Soviet communism.

But Filipino nationalists never let go of the view that the Bases Agreement was an imposition of the former colonial power, a derrogation of Philippine sovereignty. Finally, in 1992, the Philippine Senate in a historic vote ended the Bases Agreement despite the appeals of other Philippine officials led by then President Corazon C. Aquino. For the first time since 1898, there would  be no more US bases in the Philippines.

To take the place of the Bases Agreement, the US and the Philippines drew up a Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT)  and  an Enhanced Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement ( EMDCA),  along with a Visiting Forccs Agreement (VFA)  to govern  the continued coming of US troops for joint exercises,  with humanitarian activities such as schoolhouse repairs.  This is the VFA which we are now terminating.

The VFA, along with the MDT and the EMDC, are the remnants of the colonial authority that the US began  in 1898. That was when the US, having defeated Spain,  was beginning to see itself on the world stage,  despite much local opposition in the US itself, and so it decided in 1898 to reject the Philippine revolution led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and the Philippine independence he proclaimed on June 12, 1898.

Recalling all these historical events may3p help us understand why  President Duterte has decided to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement.


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