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Position Paper

of the Zamboanga City Government on the
VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
between the Governments of the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America

 The government of the City of Zamboanga supports the approval and acceptance of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States of America Regarding the Treatment of United States Armed Forces Visiting the Philippines. This support is based on the following grounds:

>The Republic of the Philippines faces a real danger of external aggression on its territory from the expansionist tendencies of the People’s Republic of China as evidenced by the recent Chinese moves on the Kalayaan or Spratley Islands. By itself, the small and poorly equipped Armed Forces of the Philippines are in no position to put up a credible defense against the might of the Chinese military. Without the ready presence of a powerful external ally, the Philippines is an easy victim for China’s bullying tactics. Although the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would not in any way restore U.S. military basing rights in the Philippines, it would send a clear confirmation to any potential foreign aggressor of the Philippines’ mutual defense alliance with a country that is capable of stopping any nation that attempts to upset the geo-political balance. In short, the physical presence of U.S. armed forces will serve as a deterrent to any escalation of Chinese intentions on Philippine territory.

>The abrogation of the Military Bases Agreement between the U.S. and the R.P. removed the Philippines from under the U.S. security umbrella, forcing it to fend for itself militarily. This has exposed the republic to external danger, considering that the Armed Forces of the Philippines are the weakest in Southeast Asia and one of the weakest in the world. The AFP is in the process of being modernized in terms of equipment and training to make it more capable of performing its defensive duties, but budget difficulties make this a slow and meager process. The VFA, as a mechanism to regulate the circumstances and conditions under which U.S. forces may visit the Philippines for joint military exercises, will help to upgrade the operational readiness of the AFP and acquaint its troops with the use of modern combat tactics and equipment.

>The termination of the Bases Agreement caused a strain in the military relations between the U.S. and the Philippines. Although under the 1953 Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement the U.S. remains committed to making military equipment, materials, devices and other assistance available to the Philippines, the reality is that, after enduring the rejection of its important bases in Southeast Asia, the U.S. is observably less enthusiastic about providing military aid to a half-hearted ally. Approval and acceptance of the VFA will signal to the U.S. that the Philippines continues to be a steadfast friend, one worth supporting with the instruments of defense as well as direct military relief in the event of an armed confrontation with a foreign adversary.

>Because of the Asian financial crisis, Southeast Asia is going through uncertain times. The potential for disruptive occurrences is high as witness the civil unrest in Indonesia. The situation could spark unexpected friction between countries. Regional instability is the last thing the Philippines and its neighbors need as they strive to weather their economic problems and resume their interrupted development. Having shown itself to be a stabilizing force in the volatile regions of the world, the U.S. would be a calming presence in Southeast Asia. The VFA would help to bring about that presence.

>The VFA does not present an infringement on Philippine sovereignty. It provides that any activities of U.S. defense and military personnel, including participation in military exercises, are subject to prior approval by the Philippine government. It also provides for the prosecution under Philippine laws of U.S. personnel who commit crimes against Philippine law on Philippine territory.

>The VFA will serve the Philippine national interest, particularly with its long-term benefit of maintaining a peaceful environment in this region of the world. It will also serve particularly the interest of Mindanao, which has long been embarked on the quest for peace and stability in order to fulfill its dream of progress.

MARIA CLARA L. LOBREGAT
City Mayor

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