Senate President ‘open’ to VFA review
MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he is “open” to a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to correct possible “defects” but warned that such a move could strain Manila’s ties with Washington.
“If it’s a question of revisiting the VFA, I’m open to it…We should look at the provisions again [to see] if there are defects or, if we’re not satisfied, there are mechanisms in the VFA that will allow us to disengage,” Enrile told reporters in Malacañang on Tuesday.
“But I would suggest that before we do these things, we have to make a thorough study of the implications of any move that we will take in relation to our security, economy and our future,” he said in an interview after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008.
Enrile acknowledged that a review of the controversial pact would be a delicate matter, but “if it becomes a matter of national interest for us, then national interest must overcome everything.”
“We are not dealing with small countries like Timbuktu, we’re dealing with one of our major trading partners, one of the countries in the world [with which] we have a longstanding mutual defense treaty,” Enrile said.
A review of the VFA would send a signal to the US that the Philippines is “not satisfied” with the agreement, Enrile said.
On Monday, Senator Francis Pangilinan filed a resolution for the abrogation of the VFA, amid the custody battle for convicted rapist Daniel Smith, who the Supreme Court has ordered returned to Philippine custody from the US embassy, where is detained.
Despite the growing clamor for Smith’s immediate turnover to Philippine authorities, Malacañang has said that the Marine lance corporal found guilty of raping a Filipina can remain at the American embassy until the two governments can agree on where he will be jailed.
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