MANILA — Instead of asking the United States to pay up to keep the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) going, former Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario says President Rodrigo Duterte should instead seek ₱230 billion worth of damages from China for its massive marine destruction of the West Philippine Sea.
Del Rosario, who served under the Aquino administration and led the Philippine arbitral tribunal victory against China in 2016, calls Duterte’s remarks “unfortunate.”
“The President’s position that the US should pay for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to continue is a sentiment that is not shared by our patriotic soldiers and our countrymen who want to defend our West Philippine Sea against China,” said Del Rosario.
“Instead, it is a sentiment shared by the Chinese Communist Party, which does not want other countries helping the Philippines defend its waters.”
VFA’s import explained
The VFA, he explained, is an implementation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty forged by the US and the Philippines as security partners after World War II.
VFA allows American soldiers to participate in large-scale training with their Filipino counterparts in the country.
It is a framework agreement that covers the treatment and presence of American forces in the country with or without war games.
“It is incomprehensible that when partners help each other against a common enemy, one party is asking his partner to pay. This is the gist of the President’s unfortunate position on the VFA,” Del Rosario said.
“On the other hand, China owes Filipinos more than ₱230 Billion in damages for undertaking the most devastating marine destruction in the West Philippine Sea, which will eventually cause a food crisis among Filipinos in the near future. In this case, when will President Duterte demand China to pay?”
Resolving issues legally
Citing aggressive actions against the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea, Del Rosario, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio filed a case against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese government officials before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Philippine Government renamed a part of the South China Sea that falls within the country’s territory as the West Philippine Sea. The status of the case is
Their complaint states that “part of the destructive reclamation and artificial island-building undertaken by Chinese officials in the Spratly occurred in Subi Reef, which is within the territorial sea of Pag-Asa, a Philippine territory with a permanent community of Filipinos and is controlled and administered by the Philippines.”
If the case progresses, Del Rosario said warrants of arrest may be issued against Xi and Chinese officials identified in the case, including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. This will also prevent them from traveling to ICC state-parties, which will be obligated to enforce the arrest warrants against them.
In December 2019, the ICC initially rejected the case, citing lack of jurisdiction as China is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and that the said crimes cited by former Philippine officials were not committed within Philippine territory, but only within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Developments in September last year prompted the submission of new evidence that could compel the tribunal to reconsider the complaint despite initial rejection. The case was initially filed by Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales on March 15, 2019, two days before the Philippines’ exit from the tribunal following orders from Duterte.
Carpio-Morales said the ICC retains jurisdiction over the acts committed by China even after the effectivity of the Philippine withdrawal from the Rome Statute. The Philippines was a member from 1 November 2011 to 17 March 2019. (BG/Headline PH)
Featured image: The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. It is headquartered in the Netherlands at The Hague.