RP still needs VFA
Stressing that the country still needs the support of the United States (US) military especially on the training of their local counterparts, Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today said he is against the abrogation of the visiting forces agreement (VFA).
Calls for the cancellation of the VFA mounted again due to reports that the US forces participate in actual combat, which is a violation of the treaty. But Gordon said there is no need for a hasty decision to halt the agreement. "We should not be emotional about this issue. Let us study this carefully. I'll be frank, I would say we still need this agreement, our military needs it, and our country benefits from it," he said.
"On whether the US soldiers are engaged in combat operations, I do not know about that, but we have to have proof. If the American soldiers would go out there and participate in actual combat, that is prohibited. They are supposed to train our soldiers and they should not be engaged in any firefight unless they are in immediate danger," he added.
The senator explained that any move to cancel the VFA should be studied carefully because the agreement is actually beneficial not only to the military but also to the humanitarian needs of the country.
Gordon pointed out that aside from teaching new military strategies and providing new technologies to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the US military, through the VFA, also shares its knowledge and capacity to respond to different kinds of security challenges, such as terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters and transnational crimes.
He noted that the military, together with US soldiers, helped civilian rescuers after the entire village of St. Bernard in Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte, disappeared under mudslides on February 17, 2006.
Also, following the onslaught of Typhoon "Frank" in 2008, US troops delivered food and water and dispatched aircraft and medics to help the people of Panay who were badly affected by the disaster.
"We should also consider the fact that the US military has been there to help us even during disasters. They were there when the tragedy in Guinsaugon happened. We used their equipment, they provided relief materials. They help our military and they help our people," the senator said.