DOJ expands VFA study to include impact assessment

Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday said his office has been directed to include the implications of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the United States and the Philippines in their study.

"We have just been instructed today to expand the scope of our study to include a preliminary impact assessment on the possible termination of the VFA," Guevarra told reporters, referring to the security, economic and environmental impact of the VFA termination into the country.

Guevarra earlier said last week that the memo sought by the Palace would only deal with the procedure for termination, not the wisdom of the executive action and answer such questions as: 'Is the VFA a treaty or an executive agreement?'; 'If it is a treaty, is Senate concurrence required for termination?'; 'Who will give the notice of termination?' (and), 'Is it necessary to state any ground for termination?"

Guevarra explained the legal formalities were easier to determine.

"'Yung legal, madali lang. 'Yung impact assessment ang kailangan ng masusing pagaaral (The legal questions are easier, It is the impact assessment that needs scrutiny," the DOJ chief said.

He added that the timeframe for the termination depends on how soon the Cabinet cluster concerned on the matter can convene.

"I may even have to request the Cabinet cluster on justice, security, and peace to convene and discuss this matter," he said.

On Friday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to start the process of termination of the VFA following the cancellation of the US visa of retired top cop and now Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, who used to be one of those who implemented the government's antidrug campaign.

Duterte earlier warned the US government that he will scrap the agreement if the cancelation of dela Rosa's visa is not rectified within a month.

Signed by the Philippines and the US in 1998, the VFA is an executive agreement that stipulates how visiting American troops should be treated in the Philippines.

Aside from exempting US forces from passport and visa regulations, the agreement also states that their permits and licenses are also deemed valid in the Philippines. The same policy also applies to Filipino troops in US military installations.

It also allows Washington DC to retain jurisdiction over US personnel accused of crimes committed in the Philippines

Source: Philippines News agency

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