Reexamine PHL relations with US, not just VFA: Cayetano

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said the government should reexamine not only the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) but also the country’s relations with the United States.

Cayetano made the statement following reports that President Rodrigo Duterte would send a formal written order to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea regarding the dispatch of a formal notice to the US about the Philippines’ decision to abrogate the VFA.

Cayetano stressed that the friendship between two countries should be built upon a foundation of equality and mutual respect.

“Without equality that comes regardless of a nation’s size, wealth, or military strength, one country is no better the slave of the other. Without the notion of equality, there can be no respect. And without respect, the relationship can never be mutually beneficial because there will be no common interest that binds the parties to seek what is good for all,” he said.

“This inequality will result in abuse. And while friends may use each other, they must never abuse each other,” he added.

He noted that the country has been “neglected” by the United States, which highlights an uneven relationship.

“They have stood by blindly as we were abused by our neighbors and our territory snatched from us. And their former enemies – despite still differing values on democratic process and human rights – continue to get better treatment and more resources from them than their old friend, and ever-reliable ally, the Philippines,” he said.

“We hold dearly our connection to America, and our affinity to the American People. But does that mean we become a ‘yes man’ to their policies and throw away the Constitutional mandate of an independent foreign policy? Do we value US interests more than our own dignity and our right to be treated as equals?,” he added.

He argued that the “protective embrace of America’s armies” are “not so protective when the US interest clashes with ours.”

‘Was there even an us?’

“President Duterte is right in calling for our own armed forces to grow and develop. Should we not take on the responsibility of defending our own nation and our people? To expand horizons and benefit from homegrown resources as well as the friendship of many other military powers – some old, others – friends to the Philippines all,” he said.

“As we reflect on the President’s decision, we have to be better informed. We cannot judge without all the facts. As a people we also need to see and understand the Visiting Forces Agreement for what it is. It is a product of a much different time, when the lines of national interests were simpler. When “us” and “them” were more easily defined. This is no longer the situation today. In truth, we may even ask… “Was there ever an ‘us’?,” he added.

The VFA, signed in February 1998, sets conditions for the conduct of visit of US troops in the Philippines.

Under the agreement, American forces can visit the Philippines sans passport and visa regulations, and use their permits and licenses in the host country.

The agreement also provides that the Philippines will take primary jurisdiction over US military personnel who commit or are accused of a crime in the country, unless the offense is related to US security or is only punishable under US law.

On the other hand, the US takes primary jurisdiction over its personnel if they commit offenses against US property or security or against fellow US personnel and their property. They also have primary jurisdiction over their personnel in offenses committed in the performance of official duty. PNA.GOV.PH