Press Release
November 26, 2010


As both the Executive and the Senate are conducting separate reviews of the country's Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, Senator Edgardo J. Angara said that it is high time for the government to also reappraise the underlying treaty to the agreement.

The assumptions on which the Philippines and the U.S. forged the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951 may no longer be valid and relevant, stressed Angara during the hearing of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the V.F.A. on Tuesday.

"The whole security architecture of the world is changing rapidly. Unless we review the underlying military defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, we may find out too late that we are still bogged down as the least trained, least prepared and poorest equipped military in the region. I think that has been our lack in this mutual agreement deal," Angara explained.

The treaty, which even preceded the Cold War, obligates the two countries to show mutual support should external threats occur. The V.F.A., the support deal ratified in 1999, has come under fire over the controversial issue of jurisdiction of U.S. military personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines.

The V.F.A. also enables the Philippines to obtain U.S. military assistance worth about $100 million yearly in the form of military equipment, goods and monetary component.

But while it was necessary for the Philippines to cement its alliances, mainly with the U.S., after the two World Wars when tension still brewed throughout the global political sphere, Angara asked, "Who is our enemy now?"

Angara pointed out that military alliances and foreign policy worldwide are being reoriented according to current security and political interests. Partnerships that were previously historically unthinkable have become more viable due to new political and pragmatic considerations.

For instance, he cited that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is now keen to bring Russia - the U.S.' Cold War foe - into its fold, when only a few years ago it condemned Russia's occupation of Georgia.

He also added that centuries-old rivals Britain and France have sealed an unprecedented 50-year agreement that will see them deploy troops, share aircraft carriers and collaborate on nuclear weapon research in a bid to save on military costs.

The Philippines and the U.S. are deeply linked historically, culturally and economically. However, Angara said that current global concerns call for new security arrangements that could be more beneficial for the Philippines.

"Are we better off with the current state of this Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S. to the exclusion of other strategic partners in the region?" Angara remarked.

He pointed out that the U.S. remains preoccupied with its campaigns against terrorism and narcotics trade, which are already within the ambit of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"I don't believe that our security arrangement should hinge solely on those two activities," Angara said.

However, the Philippines' primary security concerns now include the multi-country territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

"We get humanitarian and second-hand military equipment -- but I think those are very poor substitutes for sacrificing our own self interest and thinking strategically of what the Philippines needs in this new global security architecture," Angara said.

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