Wednesday, February 25, 2009

RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement helps build a strong republic, says Foreign Affairs

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 25, 2009) - The Philippines' Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States is indispensable to the nation’s security.

It released this Fact Sheet containing information on gains that accrue to the Philippines through the VFA.

* The RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is crucial to building a strong Philippines and maintaining a stable Asia-Pacific.

As an integral part of the network of alliances in the Asia-Pacific, the VFA helps preserve peace and stability in an era of uncertainty brought on by the emergence of non-traditional threats to security.

The VFA implements the Philippines’ only military alliance and its most effective deterrent against any potential aggressor.

By increasing interoperability between Philippine and US forces, the VFA enhances Philippine national security and helps create a stable environment conducive to economic development.
The VFA helps ensure that the AFP is kept abreast of new military strategies and technologies, as well as best practices of the US military, increasing its capacity to respond to both traditional and non-traditional security challenges, such as terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters and transnational crime.

In 2006, Philippines was assisted in the training and equipping of one (1) engineering company, three (3) Infantry battalions, one (1) Marine battalion, and three (3) Light Reaction Companies (LRC).

Last year, through a total of 25 major exercises under the VFA, Philippine armed forces personnel obtained enhanced training, assistance and support on defense capacities including surveillance, intelligence, reconstruction, communications, and mobility.

Through the VFA, the AFP is provided with the necessary materiel to effectively carry out its mandate of ensuring the nation’s security.

* The VFA is essential to RP-US cooperation in the Philippine Defense Reform Program.
As a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA), the Philippines enjoys priority status in sourcing Excess Defense Articles.

The United States has already provided the AFP with 8 helicopters in 2000; 20 of the 30 committed UH-1H (Huey helicopters) in 2007; 1 cyclone; 6 fast anti-terrorism boats; 433 M-35 trucks; 30,000 M-16 rifles; 1 C130; 2 Point Class navy cutters; night vision goggles; navigation equipment; and protection equipment such as vests and helmets.

In addition to being the Philippines’ largest source of foreign military financing, valued at an average of $ 30 million annually in grants, the United States has also committed to share in the expenses for the implementation of the Joint Defense Assessment (JDA), costing approximately $ 400 million over a ten-year period. The US National Defense Authorization Act also allocated $ 12 million and $ 16 million to the Coast Watch South Project in 2007 and 2008, respectively, to strengthen security at our borders.

* The VFA generates income for the country

The VFA, through the 5-year RP-US Mutual Logistics Support Agreement that facilitates reciprocal provision of logistic support, supplies and services during military exercises, provided revenues for the AFP amounting to US$706,425.28 from seventy (70) recorded transactions.
United States ship visits to the Philippines have brought in $ 5 million and $ 9.5 million in 2006 and 2007, respectively, as proceeds from the replenishment of supplies and logistics.

* The VFA facilitates RP-US cooperation eliminating the scourge of terrorism and in rebuilding in times of disaster.

In 2008, the aircraft carrier USS Reagan assisted in relief activities following typhoon Frank. Its 13 cargo aircraft and helicopters have flown 316 sorties delivering 479,105 Ibs. of relief supplies.
Through logistic and intelligence assistance received from the United States, Philippine forces have captured 38 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and killed 127 others, including Khadafy Janjalani, ASG spokesperson, Abu Solaiman, and ASG sub commander, Ismin Sahiron.

The civic-humanitarian component of VFA-related exercises also form the backbone of the soft approach to combating terrorism and fosters inter-faith cooperation between Christian and Muslim communities.

This was clearly evident when United States Senator Daniel Inouye, the incumbent chairman of the US Senate Appropriations Committee, visited the Philippines and was touched when he saw both Christian and Muslim Filipinos in Zamboanga cheering on US troops and waving the flags of both countries.

He commented that RP-US joint community cooperation “under the guidance and leadership of the Philippine armed forces, has played great dividends.”
* The VFA directly benefits the Filipino people through its civil-military and humanitarian component.

In the 2008, Balikatan, 17,209 patients were treated through the medical civic action program (MEDCAP), and 10 schools were repainted or rebuilt through the engineering civic action program (ENCAP).

In Puerto Princesa City, Balabac town Mayor Shuaib Astami expressed gratitude for the “blessings received by his town” through a five-day humanitarian and civic assistance program that formed part of Balikatan 08. About 2,500 residents were able to avail themselves of free medical and dental services, and joint RP and US forces were able to construct a two-room school building. The US forces also donated school supplies and athletic gear for elementary and high school students.

In Sulu, RP and US forces conducted a joint two-week medical mission in 19 towns in the province. Sulu Governor Sakur Tan noted that the humanitarian missions “will help a lot of people and we are supporting these efforts and we appreciate what the United States is doing in Sulu.”

The Governor praised Balikatan 08 for “paving the way for peace and a progressive Sulu” and attributed the fact that Sulu is the most peaceful of Muslim provinces in the South due to “the presence of American forces” there.

Balikatan 09’s Civil-Military Operation (CMO) activities are scheduled to be conducted in Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon and would benefit 11,000 Bicolanos through MEDCAP and 9 barangays through ENCAP.

In a press briefing for Balikatan 09, the governors of the three provinces welcomed the medical and engineering missions as an extension of the US tradition of humanitarian assistance.

Humanitarian mission ships, such as the USNS Mercy which visited Mindanao and Western Samar, helped 32,981 patients and 4,468 animals under the MEDCAP valued at $2.068 million. A total of 7 ENCAP projects, valued at $165,500, were also undertaken.

* The VFA is a concrete manifestation of the enduring alliance between the Philippines and the United States.

"The United States is perhaps the Philippines’ most important bilateral partner. It is the Philippines’ largest export market, its largest trading partner, its largest investor (cumulative basis) and the largest source of Official Development Assistance (ODA) grants. It is the only country with which the Philippines has a defense alliance, and which provides the Philippines with much-needed military equipment and training," the Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
"Clearly, the strategic defense relations, with the VFA as its anchor, have been instrumental in strengthening the country, securing its stability and in ensuring its continued prosperity," it added.

Anti-US protesters said the accord violated the sovereignty on the Philippines.

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