Office of the President
of the Philippines
OCHOA: RP SHOULD GET MAXIMUM BENEFITS FROM VFA REVIEW
The Aquino Administration is committed to a thorough review of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) so that refinements can be introduced to ensure that the country obtains the maximum benefits of the bilateral agreement, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said on Sunday.
"The VFA was envisioned to be a mutually beneficial agreement that would serve the interests of both our country and the United States," said Ochoa, who also chairs the Presidential Commission on the VFA. "The President, however, believes that a review is necessary because we must evaluate whether we are getting the most out of the VFA."
According to the Executive Secretary, the commission was created in 2000 under the Office of the President "to ensure that visiting U.S. troops respect Philippine laws, policies, public morals, customs and traditions."
Ochoa stressed that enough time has passed to provide insight with regard to assessing the impact of the bilateral pact.
"It has been over a decade since the VFA was ratified, and we have over ten years' worth of experience with regard to the implementation of the agreement to serve as bases for a thorough and objective assessment of its costs and benefits."
"We are also conscious of the fact that there have been specific incidents that necessitate an evaluation of provisions that deal with the handling of visiting American armed forces personnel that violate Philippine laws," Ochoa explained.
Ratified in 1999, the VFA serves as the framework for the treatment of visiting U.S. forces in the Philippines and governs the entry and exit of American troops in the country in connection with the activities approved by the government.
It also establishes the manner in which criminal cases are handled against any member of the U.S. troops, as well as a procedure for resolving differences that may arise between the two sides in this regard.
On October 1, the President issued Executive Order No. 9, which amended E.O. No. 67 released in January 2002. It reorganized the Presidential Commission on the VFA and named the Executive Secretary chair of the commission, and Foreign Secretary Alberto G. Romulo and Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin as co-chairs.
The other members of the commission are the secretaries of the Departments of Justice and Social Welfare and Development, the executive director of the commission, and a private sector representative to be appointed by the President.