MANILA—National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Thursday clarified that joint exercises military with China could not be immediately implemented without the presence of a visiting forces agreement (VFA) or a treaty.
Esperon made the clarification during a press briefing in Malacañang following statements made earlier by President Rodrigo Duterte allowing joint exercises with China.
Last Monday, Duterte said that China can have joint military drills with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Mindanao particularly the Sulu Sea.
“When the President gives out a pronouncement, we take that as an order from him. How to implement it? And as we see it we now have to look at the requirements for us to be able to do that,” Esperon said.
“In joint exercises, you must have a visiting forces agreement and probably a treaty, if there need be, and other requirements like delineation of exercise areas,” he said stressing that China could not just enter internal Philippine waters without the required agreements.
“But we will, together with the Department of National Defense and other agencies in the security cluster, we will study that. Because if that is the desire of the President, then we will do it,” Esperon said.
In the meantime, the Security Adviser said that joint patrols in the Sulu Sea would be beneficial to the country given the threats of ISIS and kidnapping in the area.
He added that with the recent launching of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung roll-on roll-off (RoRo) ferry service, potentials for other trade routes are huge.
“Halimbawa, kasabay nung ano, kasabay nung Ro-Ro line ng Bitung-Gensan-Davao ay magkakaroon din tayo ng linya dito sa Tawi-Tawi, Sabah, Labuan na barter trade. So kung matahimik ‘yung area na ‘yun, you can just imagine the commerce and trade that will be generated in that area,” he said.
“If we have enough patrols there, then you will be assured that that Ro-Ro trip will be secured and will bring prosperity to the area,” Esperon said.