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Junking VFA like abandoning a ‘toxic relationship’, says Salceda

The economic and geopolitical costs of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US will be close to nothing Albay Representative Joey Salceda on Tuesday.

The chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means said the move would instead give more gains to the Philippines in terms of strengthening its independent foreign policy, diplomatic leverage, and justice system, according to 

The statement came as Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. signed and delivered the notice of termination of the Philippines' VFA with the US.

The lawmaker compared the termination of the deal to clearing ambiguities and abandoning the "most unequal aspects" in the relationship between the two countries.

"This is a toxic relationship. And while we have nothing against the American people, we cannot ignore the fact that their government treated our country not as a partner but as an overseas possession, whose domestic policy falls within their sphere of influence," Salceda said in a position paper sent to the House leadership.

"This may have been acceptable to this government's predecessors then. It can no longer be acceptable by a country that has become aware of its own merits," he added.

Salceda pointed out that the VFA exempts US personnel from Philippine jurisdiction if the crimes they commit are not "of particular importance to the Philippines."

"By scrapping the VFA, we are simply saying that US personnel should be subject to the same justice system as Filipinos are while they are in the Philippines," he said.

"This is by no means unreasonable. Any respectable country would assert the right to try crimes committed in their country and on their countrymen," he added.

Moreover, he said that the Philippines should not worry about possible economic losses as scrapping the deal would rather reflect a better image of the country to other international investors as all partners will be treated fairly.

Withdrawing from the VFA would not mean risking the entire trading and investment relationship of the country with American businesses, Salceda underscored.

"It is price and quality, not political disagreement, that determines a country’s decision to import Philippine goods. It’s macroeconomic fundamentals and the certainty of profit, and not military treaties, that determines an investor’s decision to invest," he said.

The congressman clarified that the Philippines, through the scrapping the VFA,  will not abandon the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and Mutual Defense Treaty with the US but will only be pursuing an equal relationship with it, which goes the same for other Asian powers.

Salceda stressed that the Filipinos' irrational fear of total abandonment by the US is "primarily sentimental."

"This is part of growing up as a country. We may have to face the dreadful, but ultimately liberating truth that we do not have big brothers among the great powers, so we will have to become a respectable economic and geostrategic power ourselves," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to terminate the pact, signed in 1998, after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa. —NB, GMA News