By Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is ready to send the termination notice on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, even as the country’s top envoy said such a move would place the Philippines on the “losing end.”

“I have prepared a notice of termination, but it has not been sent upon the orders of the President,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said in a Senate inquiry on Thursday.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on January 23 threatened to terminate the VFA, giving the US government 30 days to reverse the cancelation of a senator’s visa.

Senator Ronald M. dela Rosa, a political ally of the President and former police chief, had confirmed his visa had been canceled, which was linked to the detention of Senator Leila M. de Lima and the alleged extrajudicial killings in the administration’s drug war.

On top of this, the US Senate passed a resolution asking the Philippine government to release Ms. de Lima.

The plan to abrogate the VFA was followed by the President’s directive for Cabinet members to “boycott” trips to the US and Mr. Duterte’s plan to skip the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in March.

With these, Mr. Locsin said the “VFA is the logical target when the (Philippine’s) sovereign justice system is disrespected.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Locsin said the benefits of retaining the VFA outweigh the country’s interest in pushing through with the termination.

He explained that in the absence of a VFA, other PH-US defense agreements, such as the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), will be inoperative.

“For the MDT, the VFA is a substance that makes it real and makes it work. EDCA is hinged on the VFA,” he said.

Mr. Locsin also cited that the VFA paves the way for the US Defense department to source funding for Philippine military assistance and continued support in addressing non-traditional security threats such as human trafficking, cyberattacks terrorism and illegal narcotics.