Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

DFA takes control of VFA commish — Ermita

THE new agency that will assume the role of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement will be placed under the Department of Foreign Affairs to avoid conflicting statements being issued on the treaty, Malacañang said yesterday.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the Executive Order abolishing the VFACom and creating a new body will be signed by the President soon. “I suppose it will be organized by the DFA, and will become another desk, like the Asean desk in the DFA.”

The VFACom is currently cochaired by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr.

However, VFACom Executive Director Zosimo Paredes, who was branded as a “loose canon” by a Malacañang official for issuing statements that contradicts those of Romulo, reports directly to the President.

Ermita said the new body will report directly to the DFA to avoid different interpretations of the controversial bilateral accord.

“Malacañang shares the sentiment that a new body has to be created. The EO will be released soon. There’s a time for everything.” Ermita said.

Earlier, Paredes told Standard Today that the abolition of his office is part of the government’s plan to abrogate from the treaty after several lawmakers asked Malacañang to issue a notice of termination to United States authorities in Manila.

Paredes said the bilateral accord, which has been put to the test with the ongoing trial of four US marines accused of raping a 22-year old Filipina in Subic on Nov. 1, is next to go.

Because of a provision in the VFA, the arrest warrants for the four accused rapists were preempted by the US embassy by issuing a note verbale reiterating their custody over the Marines. Joyce Pangco Pañares - Manila Standard


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