By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Solidarity Groups in Australia were quick to denounce the Philippine Senate as the latter ratified the Australia-RP Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) on July 24, 2012.The groups represent Filipino migrants in Australia, overseas Filipino workers and students, Australians of Filipino descent and citizens and residents of Australia.
“Let us not embroil peace-loving Australians in internal conflicts in the Philippines. Filipinos and Australians have never been involved in any form of hostilities. The presence of Australian troops is a potential to a shooting war. A shooting war will raise animosities between our two peoples. Ten of thousands of Filipinos in Australia, migrants and citizens, will only fall victims to indiscriminate hate that may result from any escalation of armed hostilities in the Philippines,” they said.
The Senate adopted the resolution concurring with President Benigno Aquino III’s ratification of the SOVFA through a vote of 17-1. The Senate adopted Senate Resolution 788 despite the protest of Senator Joker Arroyo. Arroyo’s position is that the SOVFA would not benefit the Philippines.
“The Senate cannot simply not concur in treaties if other contracting parties have no consideration of the country’s interests. The Aquino administration only wants this ratified because of the country’s dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea,” he was quoted as saying in earlier reports.
Arroyo questioned the Aquino’s support for the SOVFA and said that it was questionable why the Philippine government was enlisting the help of Australia when it is so far away and already an ally of the United States.
“Although the agreement is not a defense pact, its symbolism cannot be lost on China. Let us not grab at straws. We must persevere,” he said on reports in GMA-7 news.
Another senator who previously took a stand against the SOVFA is Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, but she was absent during the voting. Santiago based her opposition on her reading that the SOVFA was “vague” in its provisions and that it risks putting the Philippines at a disadvantage..... MORE