“The termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is actually long-overdue. President Rodrigo Duterte must make good his word and action to ultimately terminate the VFA. We will remain vigilant during the 180-day period prescribed for the termination to take effect,” says KMP vice-chairperson Joseph Canlas. “The 250 US troops and personnel stationed in Mindanao must also start packing up.”
“The VFA termination order is good in words but we will have to see and prove if both the US and PH governments and military would genuinely carry out the termination 180 days after the US Embassy receives the notice of termination,” said Canlas who noted that US and PH military are currently conducting the Operation Balance Piston 20-1 in Rizal, Palawan. Airborne US and PH special forces are engaged in the month-long military training until February 23. The country has hosted over 300 annual joint military exercises since VFA was approved in 1999.
KMP challenged the Duterte government to also work toward the formal abrogation of the cold-war era military treaty with the United States — the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and start the demilitarization of US military facilities sanctioned by the Enhanced Cooperation Defense Agreement (EDCA) which will be deemed useless because of the VFA termination, as admitted by defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“VFA is for visiting forces and foreign troops joining the annual Balikatan and other military exercises, but what shall the government do with the designated US military facilities and rotational personnel which are almost permanently stationed in the Philippines?, the peasant leader asked.
“While Duterte ordered the cancellation of the VFA, Malacanang said other military treaties with the United States would remain. A low-level review of the MDT is ongoing but there is no word on what will happen to EDCA and the Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines?”
Under EDCA, which was signed in 2014, the US military was allowed permanent presence across five Philippine military and air bases to support rotational deployments near the disputed West Philippine Sea. The PH approval of EDCA was in tune with the policy of the former Obama administration to pivot or rebalance US military and resources to Asia to deter threats from China.
The Cesar Basa Airbase in Floridablanca, Pampanga was officially activated last year as the first US military facility under EDCA. Other local bases that are being used by the US military include the Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, the country’s largest military installation, the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, and the Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan De Oro City in Mindanao. There are actual presence of US troops and military equipment in the abovementioned facilities.
The Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga is also known as a long-time permanent US military facility in Mindanao that is currently used for the Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines which provides the AFP with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support related to counterterrorism operations, including the capacity to target and conduct lethal operations against so-called multiple violent extremist threats. ###