Military admits ending VFA with US will ''affect'' rescue during calamities
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. admitted on Wednesday the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States will affect their rescue operation during calamity.
"It will affect our rescue operations, definitely. But we, since the notice of termination of VFA has been served and recieved by the US Embassy, we have already presented to the secretary of national defense (Delfin Lorenzana), our way... (in) filling up the gap especially with our modernization program, and other stop-gap measures that we would do, in case the big one (a 7.2 magnitude earthquake) appears. This is the time we will declare emergency, to tap all our available resources in our area," Santos said at the hearing of the bicameral Commission on Appointments.
Santos said in case of a huge calamity the military is also planning to tap resources, equipment and capability of the private sector.
"Just like equipment and contractors, whatever is the capability of the private entities we recommend, we could use that, and we'll be planning for that as a stop-gap measure of the effects of our termination of the VFA," he said.
Santos said the military is also planning to increase bilateral exercises and agreements with other allied countries as part of its effort to fill the gap caused by the termination of the VFA.
"Part of filling that gap is we will increase our bilateral exercises, (agreement) with our, with our (allied) countries, not only the United States because as of now, the only (Status Visiting Forces Agreement) SOVFA we have is with Australia," he said.
"We will push, with the help of Congress and the Senate, we will push for the approval of the SOVFA of other countries, just like South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and other allied countries," he added.
Santos said with the termination of VFA, other military exercises and activities with the United States forces this year may not be implemented.
"For calendar year 2020, we'll have a total of 318 activities, 155 of which is what we call the (Security Engagement Board) SEB which are non-military and we have 163 mutual defense board activities like meetings and other related forums, but we have 10 major exercises," he said.
"Since we have sent the notice so we'll wait for 180 days before termination, (that's the) guidance from the secretary of national defense. So those that are ongoing will push through unless the other side cancels it, just like Balikatan will be covered before the 180 days, but others will not be implemented anymore. They will be beyond the 180 days," he added. Robina Asido/DMS