City to abide by Duterte’s decision on VFA

Mayor Beng Climaco said the City Government will submit to the wisdom of President Duterte and the national government on the issue of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

Nonetheless, she said, Zamboanga City appreciates much the assistance given by the US government to law enforcement agencies through the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTFP), an agreement forged in 2002 following the 9-11 attack in the US.

Zamboanga City has been a host to US servicemen since the start of the JSOTFP but they have been most of the time confined to the Western Mindanao Command headquarters.

“There might be other protocols or foreign policies that the administration has and we just have to abide by them. One thing is sure, as far as Zamboanga City is concerned, through the past years they have been helping our law enforcement agencies,” Climaco said in a recent press briefing in City Hall.

Through the VFA, the police have been a recipient of capability trainings and even the Zamboanga Airport was also a recipient of various assistance to include hardwares during the stint of US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, the mayor added.

For his part, Vice Mayor Rommel Agan said he refers to the agencies of national government handling foreign relations and national security on the proper treatment of the VFA issue.

“But for us here in the LGU, we recognize and appreciate the assistance we received from our allies which helped improve our peace and order situation in this part of the country.” Agan said Monday.

Reports have it that the Department of Foreign Affairs has signed the termination notice for the VFA with the US. The termination notice has already been received by the Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission and will take effect after 180 days. 

Last January 23, the President gave the US government 30 days to rectify the visa cancellation of his political ally Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa or he would abrogate the two-decade-old military accord, according to newspaper reports.

The VFA, which was ratified by the Senate in 1999, governs the conduct of US troops who take part in military exercises in the Philippines. (Sheila Covarrubias)