Press Releases

Salceda statement on the recall of the abrogation of the visiting forces agreement

July 30th, 2021

At the instruction of President Duterte, the Philippines withdrew today its abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. This comes at the right time, when the United States is demonstrating a more constructive and mutually beneficial stance towards its traditional allies, as shown in its assistance in Philippine efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, we successfully negotiated the largest single order of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines in large part due to the assistance of our partners in the US government.

The withdrawal of the abrogation means that the Visiting Forces Agreement will remain in effect. But it has broader implications on our foreign policy. First, if we take together both our withdrawal and our abrogation now after more constructive actions from the United States, it means that the US will be less likely to take us for granted. It has now seen us slip away and return to the fold when they do better.

Earlier this morning, I just delivered a lecture to the Junior Chamber International (JCI) about my predictions for the next decade, including some thoughts on our foreign relations. It was a lecture I delivered as a Laureate of the JCI’s The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award. I told participants that if there is a credible prospect that the Mutual Defense Treaty can be invoked quickly, China will be less likely to wage war.

Indeed, I told participants that I predict China will not at all launch a war of aggression, as it will be to its disadvantage economically, politically, and geopolitically. ASEAN will simply congeal, and invite other powers over, to a war right at China’s neighborhood.

I also explained how the language of “freedom of navigation” over “individual sovereign territorial claims” will be more easily understood by other regional and extra-regional powers and is therefore to our greater advantage. The continuation of the VFA secures freedom of navigation better.

The best use of the VFA is in helping secure our interests in the West Philippine Sea. It should not only help us train our armed forces but also enhance the capabilities of our Coast Guard, which is critical to asserting that the WPS is our maritime territory.

That said, we must ensure that the VFA remains fair to all parties and does not breach the rights of Filipinos. When in the Philippines, anyone, including visiting forces, must abide by Philippine law. Withdrawing from the VFA got the US to court us again. It should be clear to them that reinstating the VFA should be conducted in a manner that is to our mutual benefit.

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