Apart from this reading of the tea leaves, Duterte cannot in principle have a single discretion to decide the fate of the VFA. Senior leaders in the Philippine Senate, particularly the president of the Senate, an ally of Duterte, have launched a petition asking the Supreme Court to ascertain whether Duterte has the unilateral power to denounce the deal. The petition calls for the executive and the legislature to agree on such a decision. Despite the court decision, President Salvador Panelo`s spokesman said: “We will follow the Supreme Court. No matter what the law says, we will follow. However, the Supreme Court tends to favour Duterte. A1: No. The VFA is an agreement between the two countries to support the Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT). The MDT was established in 1951 between the United States and the Philippines to provide mutual assistance in the event of an attack on foreigners. Paradoxically, the fatal blow to the VFA could come from Washington itself rather than from Manila. Asked about Duterte`s denunciation of the agreement, Trump said, “I don`t mind them wanting to do it.
It will save a lot of money. … My opinions are different from the others. Trump`s statement underscores his general lack of esteem for international agreements and alliances in favor of his “America First” policy. However, the two leaders spoke on 19 April and it was not known whether the VFA was running. Whatever happens, the fate of the VFA will determine the tone of the Alliance at least for the remainder of Duterte`s mandate until 2022, if not beyond. According to the text of the diplomatic note, the six-month waiver “may be extended by the Philippines for a further six months.” At the end of this period, Manila, unless further action is taken, would return to its original plan to denounce the agreement, which was first announced on 11 February 2020. Although Duterte threatened to reject U.S. forces in 2016, he also clearly benefits from U.S. military assistance in those operations – and Manila may need more support since 11 of its soldiers have just been killed in the fight against the Terrorist Group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.
The VFA was also important to allow the U.S. military to enter the Philippines in 2013 to provide humanitarian and disaster assistance after Typhoon Haiyan. U.S. security assistance over the past two decades of the VFA`s existence has been considerable and has yielded about $1.3 billion, and annual exercises such as balikate – although this year cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic – greatly increase the Philippine military`s willingness to conduct a series of missions. Indeed, decades of close cooperation between the U.S. and Philippine militaries have led to very favorable views of the United States under the Philippine defense establishment, while China is considered the greatest threat. The main effect of the agreement is to require the U.S. government to notify the Philippine authorities when it has been aware of the arrest, arrest or detention of Filipino personnel visiting the United States and, at the request of the Philippine government, to ask the competent authorities to exercise jurisdiction on behalf of the Philippines, except in cases of particular interest to the United States.