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Lorenzana: Philippines doesn’t need VFA indefinitely

The Philippines does not need the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States indefinitely, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Thursday.

During the Senate foreign relations committee hearing on the VFA, Senator Richard Gordon asked if it is in the national interest of the country to terminate the agreement with the United States at this point in time.

Lorenzana replied that the long term interest is to be self sufficient in the country’s defense capability.

“We should have at least our minimum deterrent capability. Whether we need the VFA indefinitely, I think we do not need VFA indefinitely so we should use the interim to build up our capabilities,” he said.

Earlier in the hearing, the Defense chief said US forces provide a big help to the Philippines particularly during calamities.

“Yes, example was when Haiyan (Typhoon Yolanda) struck Tacloban, it was the US aircraft carrier [which] came first and offered assistance to the victims because we didn’t have any assets then to bring there (the relief goods). The airport was destroyed and it will take time for our ships to go there,” he said, answering the question of Senator Grace Poe.

He added that since then, the Philippines acquired two ships which can be used in times of emergency.

“They were very helpful during calamities, especially Haiyan and landslides. The US forces are always there in times of calamities. The troops deployed in Okinawa are ready to help us  anytime,” he further said.

Lorenzana said the US has also given the Philippines a total of $1.3 billion since 1998. He said the biggest grant was given to the AFP in 2017 at $219 million.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he would terminate the VFA if the US would not restore the canceled visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa.

Also during the hearing, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines has yet to send to the US its notice of termination as regards the VFA, adding that a review of the agreement is called for. — RSJ, GMA News