May 22, 2012
TERMS OF PH-AUSTRALIA VFA SEEMS FAVORABLE TO PHL--ANGARA
During today's Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, Senator Edgardo J. Angara asked for an objective comparison of the terms and benefits of the US-VFA and PH-Australia VFA as a condition for the immediate ratification of the latter.
As vice-chair of the committee, Angara ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to come up with a matrix enumerating the provisions of the two treaties.
The purpose of today's hearing was to discuss the Ph-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement or SOVFA, entitled: "Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of Australia Concerning the Status of Visiting Forces of Each State in the Territory of the Other State."
According to Angara, the treaty with Australia so far seems to be more favorable to the Philippines than the other agreements the nation has signed up for.
"From what I've heard today I think this is slightly better than the US VFA. Because on the issue of the jurisdiction of the criminal, we have the option to assert jurisdiction.
Secondly, this will make their assistance official and institutional--in case of disaster, we can call on them in an official capacity. They can extend help in an official manner rather than from mere generosity," he explained.
The veteran lawmaker further explained that this partnership with Australia is critical in our efforts to change other countries' perception of the Philippines, adding to our existing links with the US, Japan and Korea.
"This is really a network of self-protection. Not so much of aggression, but rather, self-protection. The bonus here for us is having the capability of our armed forces upgraded, with almost 130 of our military personnel studying in Australia in various universities. That's already a good investment towards their training," said Angara.
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