PH military to lose significant training if VFA with US scrapped — Gordon

By: Cathrine Gonzales - INQUIRER.net - Inquirer.net | February 10,2020 - 11:38 AM

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine military will lose significant training if the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States is scrapped, Sen. Richard Gordon said Monday.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, Gordon noted that the Philippines had already received considerable training from its long-time ally since the VFA was enacted.

“Certainly a lot of training. Our helicopter pilots can now fly at night. That came out of VFA, they have trained that at night you can fly. We now use drones. That’s part of the training. We have Balikatan ground to air, air to ground, and ship to air and et cetera,” Gordon said when asked what the Philippines would lose if it officially terminates the defense pact.

“At the same time, we have to really have interoperability. Most of the heavy equipment is American. That’s gonna be hard to just switch there. It isn’t simply done,” he added.

The VFA, signed and ratified in 1998, is an accord between the two countries containing guidelines and conditions for the US troops who take part in military exercises in the Philippines.

It allows the Philippines and the US to accomplish its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which mandates that the two allies should support each other in the event of an armed attack by a hostile party.

While the Philippine military promises modernization, Gordon noted that currently, the country is still the “sick man of Asia in terms of military prowess.”

“Even our manpower is lower than most. Our expenditure is lower than most,” he said, noting that in the 2020 national budget, P119 billion of the P192.1 billion budget for the Department of National Defense will go to personnel services.

READ: Tinkering with VFA exposes PH military need to build strength

Should the VFA be officially revoked, the MDT will be degraded to a mere “piece of paper,” according to Gordon.

“The VFA allows Americans to come in here by treaty. They are allowed to train with us, they are allowed to stay in our facilities, they build facilities that they would leave behind. I am not after that may makukuha tayo sa kanila (I’m not after receiving these facilities from them). I am after the training,” he said.

He added that should there be an armed attack or aggression against the country, “America will likely fight for us because we are not ready to fight for ourselves and that is basically the problem.”

“The point is always to look at ourselves first. What are we fighting for? Who is gonna fight for us? Nobody is gonna fight for you,” he said.

As for Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, Gordon said the lawmaker can always travel to the US with President Rodrigo Duterte or in an official mission. He noted, though, that perhaps Dela Rosa will have to apply for a visa each time.

Duterte on Jan. 23 threatened to terminate the VFA with the US if it will not reverse the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa. Dela Rosa was the President’s first appointee for the Philippine National Police chief in 2016.

The US did not cite a reason for its move but it is likely due to the former police chief’s involvement in the Duterte government’s war on drugs.

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