President Rodrigo Duterte’s restoration of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the US and the Philippines is his attempt to score political points for his daughter and potential presidential candidate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and secure more vaccines for the country. 

In the latest episode of “The Press Room”, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist Manuel “Manny” Mogato, opined how the long overdue VFA restoration could be a political strategy to win votes for his daughter. 

Ayaw ng mga Pilipino, base sa survey ng SWS, ang China,” Mogato said.

(According to the SWS survey, Filipinos aren’t fond of China.)

Yung impression nila ay si Duterte ay pro-China, so, maaaring maapektuhan yung election campaign lalo na kung tatakbo yung kanyang anak,” he added.

(Their impression towards Duterte is that he is pro-China, which could affect the election campaign, especially if his daughter were to run for presidency.)

Mogato expressed how this could be a major consideration which helped make the president’s decision regarding the retention of the VFA.

“So, palagay ko, yun yung isang malaking consideration, at marami pang iba. Hindi lang bakuna, hindi lang armas,” he said.

(So, I think, that was a major consideration, and many more. Not only for vaccines, not only for firearms.)

He wrote in his column how many have speculated that the quid pro quo in the voidance of the abrogation of the VFA was an exchange for millions of free vaccines against the coronavirus disease.

Last year, Duterte threatened the US to terminate the VFA if they were unable to provide vaccines, and sought at least 20 million vaccine doses.

Kung hindi sila maka-deliver ng maski na lang a minimum of mga 20 million vaccines, ah they better get out. No vaccine, no stay here,” he warned.

(If they are unable to deliver at least a minimum of 20 million vaccines, ah they better get out. No vaccine, no stay here.)

Mogato observed that the president’s decision, if made in exchange for free vaccines, was a good one on the bright side.

The US promised 7 million free vaccines for the entirety of Asia, but as of the moment, 6 million vaccines have already arrived in the Philippines alone.

Palagay ko, nabago na yang promise na yan ng Amerika kasi nga lumalaganap na yung Delta variant sa buong mundo, so dapat na bilisan yung pagbabakuna,” he said.

(I think America modified that promise because of the fast-spreading Delta variant, so the vaccination process should go faster.)

“Others said the US might have promised more modern and brand-new equipment,” he also wrote in the column article.

He also explained how the president’s decision could heighten his approval rating because of the Filipinos’ fascination for the West.

Hindi lang naman ang US ang panalo diyan. Sa isang banda, si Pangulong Duterte ay panalo din,” he commented.

(The US is not the only winner here. On the bright side, President Duterte is also a winner.)

The VFA gives American soldiers the right to participate in military exercises in the country. Ariane Mae Bautista