Pres. Duterte’s announcement to cancel VFA purportedly as a retaliation for the cancellation of Sen. Bato’s U.S. visa, is actually a direction consistent with Philippines’ recent pivot to China. But the scrapping of VFA is facing strong headwinds coming from the Senate, Department of Foreign Affairs and most importantly, from the Department of Defense. Reading between the lines, when Sec. Lorenzana stated that U.S. military assistance is not needed “indefinitely” what he meant is that the Philippines needs it now. Without U.S. military help, the Abu Sayyaf will be active on the main island of Mindanao; or the ISIS aligned group who assaulted Marawi, would still be in occupation. The U.S. military provides arms and technology to Philippine soldiers in the South. Whereas before Philippine soldiers could not continue to chase Abu Sayyaf fighters once they retreated to the thick forest of Mindanao, now Philippine soldiers can locate and kill them due to U.S. military’s heat seeking technology where the location of a human body can be identified. Lorenzana and Philippine soldiers on the ground know that U.S. military, at present, are indispensable partners in the fight against terrorism in the Philippines. To remove the VFA is to put many Philippine soldiers at risk in fighting terrorism. This is a critical moment for the Duterte administration moving forward and I hope the voice of Lorenzana, the only “adult” in the cabinet for this issue, is heard and heeded.
Comments are closed.