19 October 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez was the featured speaker at the virtual “SPAG Talks” held on 16 October 2020.
“SPAG Talks” is organized by Silliman University’s School of Public Administration and Governance (SPAG) Society, the official academic organization of Silliman University’s SPAG, led by the SPAG Student Council.
This edition of the SPAG Talks centered on the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the implications of its possible termination for the two countries’ longstanding alliance. The hourlong virtual discussion was attended by the faculty and undergraduate students under the Public Administration and Foreign Affairs programs.
Last June, the Philippine Government informed the United States that it has decided to suspend the termination of the VFA. The suspension is extendible beyond the initial period of six months.
While noting the negative impact of the VFA’s termination on the Philippines’ defense and security arrangements and its overall relations with the United States, Ambassador Romualdez emphasized that “there is value in revisiting the VFA to address sovereignty, such as jurisdiction and custody.”
“An early resumption of bilateral clarificatory talks may serve as a basis, as well as a jump-off point for a review of the VFA,” the Ambassador said.
In his remarks and the Q&A portion that followed, Ambassador Romualdez situated discussions on the VFA and the PH-U.S. alliance within the Philippines’ pursuit of an independent foreign policy.
“Each country has its own interests to protect, and we, as a country, should always protect our own interests. It’s important for us to decide on our own what’s best for us,” the Ambassador said.
Ambassador Romualdez fielded students’ questions ranging from the evolving position of the United States on the South China Sea issue and its role in Southeast Asia’s regionalism, to racial tensions in the U.S. and the Philippine Embassy’s efforts to help Filipino nationals and sustain investor confidence during this time of pandemic. In closing the program, the Chairman of Foreign Affairs Department, Ambassador Dr. MacArthur F. Corsino (ret.), reiterated that the VFA is “vital to not only our defense alliance with the United States, but is also part of our President’s effort to maintain our independent foreign policy in the context of events happening in our region.”