Senator Edgardo J. Angara expressed a few concerns over the environment in the implementation of the Philippine-Australia Visiting Forces Agreement during a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held today.
“I am trying to visualize the operationalization of this program, and I feel that it is in our duty to advise and remind that we must be careful in our protected areas such as preserved forests and watersheds,” he said.
Angara, vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, earlier said that the overall arrangement of the PH-Australia State of the Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) favors the Philippines. Finer details of the agreement were discussed in the recent hearing after being studied by the Senate committee.
Angara asked who would be accountable for the inevitable damage to the environment on account of the Ph-Australia VFA training exercises.
“One provision in this agreement says that the sending state would be responsible for compensation, but how would the damaged areas be recovered or rehabilitated? These natural wonders and resources are beyond monetary value,” he stressed.
Representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reassured the veteran legislator that they would identify the limited use of land, sea and air space, with areas being very meticulously planned out.
Docking sites and land areas designated for the exercises will be prepared beforehand to minimize damage.(30)