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The Philippines Cancels VFA With America

Updated on February 11, 2020

Known as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), it is a nearly 50-year agreement with the U.S. military to have American and Filipino forces train together, share equipment and command structures, lend equipment and force integration. The armed forces of both countries have a long standing respect for one another to help defend the Philippines from hostile aggression. Annual training exercises occur between both countries. With the Philippines having to fight small groups of Islamist terrorist groups in Mindanao (a southern island) that recently strained their military, this VFA is an important connection with over 300 sub-agreements including the American use of military bases\airfields in times of emergency or hostile aggression.

The Duterte Administration

Like Trump presidency in the USA, the Duterte administration has been Trump-like in many ways from vindictive policy changes and corruption charges to Duterte's personality, which mirrors Trump's in bravado and tweets.

This latest episode has many, if not most, Filipinos angry about the termination of the VFA since the USA has a high favorable rating among its citizens. Duterte has divided the Philippines as Trump as done in America. This latest tantrum began when a member of the Filipino Senate was denied a U.S. visa. This senator was instrumental in Duterte's brutal anti-drug campaign where over 5000 were killed, which was largely supported by most Filipinos but condemned by the international community including the USA.

This infuriated Duterte for more personal reasons. You see, when Duterte was in his 20's, he tried to get a US visa to attend a friend's wedding. Ever since that snub, he has held an anti-US feeling in his being. This no doubt came to light again when one of his best senators was also rejected. He felt slighted, he felt like the US did not respect the Philippine sovereignty. Like Trump, he threw a tantrum and ranted about all this silliness and threatened to cancel the VFA unless an apology came or a visa issued.

None came. But, Trump said he loved the Philippines (he is even building a Trump tower there in Manila were one can buy a suite for a million dollars) and praised Duterte. This was not good enough and Duterte announced the termination of the VFA in retaliation.

Now What?

In the same announcement that terminated the VFA, Duterte welcomed other countries to help the PH military train as a replacement to the USA. Subic Bay was the main USN base until 1991 or so. With the Philippines fast becoming "Little China" or a "Chinese Province" due to China's massive funding of many domestic projects and tourists. China is replacing the US presence and Duterte is bending over for it. With China controlling the South China Sea and even claiming some of the islands that clearly belong to the Philippines and Duterte is unwilling and afraid to challenge China because of Chinese domestic funding and loans.

Even Russia is now selling the Philippines military aircraft and helicopters while hoping to extend their own warm water bases. All this could have easily been avoided had Trump demanded that the Filipino senator be issued a US visa. Trump's position or inaction sent the wrong message that offended Duterte further. Because of this, the US has lost a key friend and base in this critical region where China is expanding. True, Japan still has a VFA agreement but the Philippines has been on the U.S. side since WW2, most everyone there speaks English and pro-American.

Americans have been able to go to the Philippines without obtaining a visa for 30 days. However, now Duterte wants that to change also by forcing Americans to get a Philippine visa


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