Funding for VFA body slashed while pact is under review — DFA

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)

FUNDING for the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces next year was almost halved to P12 million as the Philippines studies a plan to end a military deal with the US on the deployment of troops for war games, according to the country’s top diplomat.

“We have merely suspended it, so I think I cut it down to P12 million,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. told senators at a budget hearing on Thursday. The original budget was P28.09 million, he said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in February announced the visiting forces agreement (VFA) after the US Embassy canceled the visa of Senator Ronald M. de la Rosa, his former police chief.

The government suspended the termination in June for six months as countries fight a coronavirus pandemic. The suspension may be renewed for six more months.

Mr. Locsin recalled telling Mr. Duterte about the “power vacuum” in the South China Sea resulting from the VFA abrogation, which prompted the President to suspend the VFA termination.

The Senate Finance sub-committee headed by Senator Richard J. Gordon was tackling the P21.9 billion budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is 9.31% lower than this year’s budget. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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