The proposed cut on the 2021 budget allocation for the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces (PCVF) will not have a direct impact on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a military spokesperson said Sunday, Oct. 11.
Major General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said the trainings being conducted by the military will still continue even with the decision of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to cut down the budget of the PCVF, an attached agency of the DFA, by P16.09 million next year to reflect the government’s decision to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.
“Kung ang pag-uusapan ay ang pag-slash ng budget ng [PCVF] sa ilalim ng umbrella ng DFA, wala po iyang gasinong epekto sa AFP,” Arevalo said.
(If we are talking about the budget slash of the PCVF under the umbrella of the DFA, it will not have an effect on the AFP.)
Arevalo, however, admitted that the government’s decision to repeal the VFA with the US, albeit suspended, will have a “slight impact” to the military’s training on a larger scale.
“Mayroon pong bahagyang epekto sa atin iyan on a bigger scale. Kung ang pag-uusapan natin ay VFA, definitely ang tatamaan ay iyong large scale troop movements para sa training gaya ng Balikatan,” he stated.
(It will have a slight impact on us on a bigger scale. If we talk about the VFA, the large scale troop movements for the training like Balikatan exercises will definitely be affected.)
Arevalo explained that military training, such as the annual Balikatan exercises between Filipino and American soldiers here in the Philippines, have its own budget allocations under the AFP.
“Ang Balikatan po ay mayroong sariling project at sariling budget na nagmumula sa budget na ipinagkakaloob sa Department of National Defense na ibinababa naman sa ating AFP,” he said.
(Balikatan is a project on its own and has a separate budget from the allocation given to the Department of National Defense, which is being cascaded down to the AFP.)
The PCVF is primarily mandated to coordinate, advise, guide, and assess the conduct of military training, and the Status of Forces Agreements by the Philippines with other countries to ensure that they are serving the nation’s interest.
During a Senate hearing on the proposed P22.09-billion budget of the DFA on Thursday, Oct. 8, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. told senators that he trimmed down the original P28.09 million budget for PCVF to P12 million.
“The PCVF budget must reflect the fact that we have abrogated the VFA. We have merely suspended it,” Locsin said.
Ratified in 1999, the VFA allows joint training between the Philippines and the US militaries in Manila, and governs the conduct of foreign troops while they are in the country.
On Feb. 11, however, President Duterte decided to terminate the more than two-decade-old agreement.
This, after the US government revoked the travel visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Duterte’s political ally and former Philippine National Police chief, allegedly due to human rights violations in connection with the administration’s controversial anti-illegal drugs war.
The abrogation of the VFA was eventually suspended by Duterte on June 11 “in light of the political and other developments in the region,” and primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.