• VFA stays, Palace insists

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    MALACAÑANG on Tuesday said the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) will not be terminated even if a joint resolution was filed in Congress seeking the abrogation of the defense accord.

    Calls for the cancellation of the treaty snowballed following the killing of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City. The suspect is an American soldier —PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton.

    Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reiterated President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s stand that the VFA forms an essential part of the country’s defense.

    “The President has already stated that the Philippines needs the [VFA] which forms an integral part of our national defense strategy,” Coloma said.

    He issued the statement a day after Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Akbayan party list Rep. Walden Bello filed a joint resolution calling for the termination of the VFA.

    Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, however, warned that terminating the VFA would adversely affect the country’s defense strategy amid changing regional security challenges.

    “Let us not forget that the VFA is a component of our overall defense strategy and its abrogation now will have an adverse effect on the minimum credible defense posture that we are working hard to achieve,” Gazmin said.

    “The Laude case has shown that the Philippines and US are willing to cooperate fully with each other within the terms of the agreement. Both sides have also shown their respect for the sensitivities of one another over this incident. That is the VFA at work,” he added.

    Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose meanwhile clarified that Congress has no power to nullify the defense agreement.

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