US military facilities will have to go once VFA is terminated, says Sec. Lorenzana

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 5 Feb) – United States military facilities in Zamboanga City and other Philippine military bases will have to go if President Rodrigo Duterte will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in Marawi City. MindaNews file photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is in deep consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs, said American facilities in these bases constructed under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will also have to go once VFA will be terminated.

“I think EDCA will become useless if there is no more VFA. Who will man these bases?” he told reporters here.

Under the EDCA, signed by the Philippine and US governments on March 19, 2016, the American military forces were allowed to build and operate temporary facilities in five locations.

These are Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu.

Lorenzana said Duterte is bent on terminating the VFA with the US, the Philippine military’s strong ally.

President Duterte first threatened to scrap the VFA more than a week ago, after Washington cancelled the visa for his ex-police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, who is now a senator.

Dela Rosa told reporters that a letter he received recently from the US Embassy in Manila did not state a reason for the cancelation of his visa, which was supposed to expire in 2022.

Dela Rosa was the chief enforcer of Duterte’s drug war, which has left thousands of suspects dead during the past three years.

Lorenzana said the US forward base in Calarian, Zamboanga will close once VFA is terminated.

Along with the Zamboanga US base, Lorenzana said the surveillance flights provided by Dyne Corporation, a service provider of the US Department of Defense, will also stop its operations in Southern Philippines. The DoD awarded US$135 million to Dyne Corporation in July 11, 2016 to provide helicopters and surveillance aircrafts to the US troops in the Philippines.

Lorenzana said VFA would be terminated in 180 days as soon as the US will receive the request of termination from the Philippines.

He said the Philippine government has not yet delivered the formal termination request to the US government.

“VFA is over although there is no formal announcement yet,” Lorenzana said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)