MALACAÑANG on Friday cautioned the incoming government against scrapping the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as a prerequisite for the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), saying the country’s security is at stake.
Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. however admitted that the government can abrogate the two agreements.
“There are mutually accepted processes for amending or rescinding such agreements,” he told The Manila Times.
On Thursday, NDF negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said his group will ask the government of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte not to allow US military presence anywhere in the country, citing sovereignty issues.
Agcaoili said they will formally push for the junking of the VFA and EDCA, which allow the continued and “rotational” presence of American servicemen in designated military camps in the country.
“From the very beginning, we have always stood on the basis of principled self-respect and national sovereignty. We cannot allow the presence of US military bases here,” said the NDF official.
But Coloma said the VFA and EDCA “represent commitments of the Republic of the Philippines that remain valid and in force” until otherwise rescinded by the approving authorities.
“It is the duty of the government to uphold the national interest at all times,” he added.
The incoming government and the NDF are reportedly preparing for the holding of preliminary talks for the framework of the peace agenda in Oslo, Norway, the go-between country.
Agcaoili emphasized that the demand for the removal of US troops is “non-negotiable” even if the country faces threats from China.
The VFA, ratified by the Senate in the late 90s, allows joint military drills between the US and Armed Forces of the Philippines yearly while the EDCA permits the US to build structures, store and preposition weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years.