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Congressman bucks plan to end military deal with US

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PHILSTAR

A CONGRESSMAN on Wednesday filed a resolution opposing a plan to end an agreement with the US on the deployment of troops and equipment for war games.

Magdalo Rep. Manuel DG. Cabochan III said ending the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would “compromise the longstanding and cordial diplomatic relations” with the US.

The lawmaker also said the VFA had helped the Philippines in addressing “vulnerabilities of our national security.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered government lawyers to expand their study of a plan to end the VFA.

Mr. Duterte last week asked the US government to reverse its decision to cancel Senator Ronald M. de la Rosa’s US visa, giving it a month-long ultimatum.

Mr. De la Rosa, a political ally, last week said the US embassy had canceled his visa. Mr. Duterte’s former police chief led the government’s deadly war on drugs that has killed thousands before he became a senator.




He was also considered to be among those responsible for the detention of Senator Leila M. de Lima, a staunch critic of Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

Also yesterday, senators belonging to the foreign relations committee agreed to assess the enforcement of the military agreement.

Committee members agreed to hold a hearing “on the visiting forces agreement or matters related to it” on Thursday next week, Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III said at a briefing.

Mr. Pimentel said at least two members of the committee would file resolutions seeking to review the VFA, enhanced defense cooperation agreement and Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.

The Senate body will issue recommendations to the presidential palace, Mr. Pimentel said.

The VFA allows the US government to retain jurisdiction over American soldiers accused of committing crimes in the Philippines, unless the crimes are “of particular importance” to the Southeast Asian nation.

Mr. Duterte’s Senate allies earlier said his threat to end the VFA goes beyond the cancelation of Mr. De la Rosa’s US visa.

The US Senate last year passed a resolution asking the Philippine government to release Ms. De Lima. It also sought to block the entry and freeze the US assets of officials behind drug-related killings and Ms. de Lima’s “wrongful detention.”

US President Donald Trump also signed into law last year the nation’s 2020 budget, which includes a clause allowing the US secretary of state to ban the entry of Philippine officials behind Ms. De Lima’s detention.

Ms. De Lima, a staunch critic of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, has been in jail since February 2017 for drug trafficking. — Charmaine A. Tadalan









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