The VFA Termination by Duterte: New Strategic Moves?

Posted by
March 5, 2020

A public forum on President Duterte’s termination of the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA, 1999) was organized by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) on March 2, 2020 at the University of the Philippines’ Asian Center. The public forum was hosted by the Dean’s Office of Asian Center with China watcher, Filipino analyst and journalist Ericson Baculinao as speaker.

In his paper, “The VFA Termination by Duterte: New Strategic Moves?”, Baculinao said the presidential move signals new strategic possibilities. He noted that the termination lessens U.S. ability to dictate on Philippine foreign policy; enhances overall cooperation with China leading to possible solutions to the South China Sea disputes; and widens space for the country’s initiatives for a more independent foreign policy. Facts show that, under the right conditions, China is capable of economic or territorial concessions in exchange for greater security. The case of the protracted negotiations over the Sino-Russia border and the latest trade war with the US are good examples, Baculinao stressed.

The SRO public forum was attended by 150 academics, students, think tanks, lawyers, as well as former generals and senior officials of the armed forces. Opening remarks were given by the Asian Center college secretary, Prof. Rolli Talampas, with CenPEG Board chair Temario C. Rivera acting as forum moderator. College Dean, Prof. Joefe Santarita, presented Baculinao a certificate of appreciation for his talk.

After his tenure as UP Student Council president, Baculinao joined a Philippine youth delegation trip to China in 1971, which became a long period of exile due to the Marcos dictatorship. In the ensuing years, he worked in state farms, learned Mandarin and Chinese revolutionary history, and earned the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree from the Beijing Language Institute. He did freelance journalism for the Hong Kong Standard, South China Morning Post, Asiaweek and Der Spiegel before working for the NBC winning an Emmy in 1989 as part of the NBC team that covered the Tiananmen crisis. To this day, he closely follows major strategic trends involving China’s domestic and foreign policy.

A UP political science graduate (cum laude), Baculinao also studied law in UP. He is the present Beijing bureau chief of NBC News US TV. He has lived and worked in China for the past 48 years.


Download: Duterte’s termination of the VFA: New strategic moves?

ERIC & Temy
Baculinao, right, and Temario C. Rivera, CenPEG chair

Retired Commodore Carlos Agustin (holding mike) poses a question.

Asian Center Dean Joefe Santarita presents a certificate of appreciation to the speaker.



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