Malacañang on Tuesday night reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte will not entertain any initiative from the United States government to salvage the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). And to make the statement stronger, the Palace also said the Chief Executive will not accept any official invitation to visit the US.
Malacañang on Tuesday night reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte will not entertain any initiative from the United States government to salvage the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
And to make the statement stronger, the Palace also said the Chief Executive will not accept any official invitation to visit the US.
Chief presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo, made the remarks following questions from Palace reporters about chances to reconsider President Duterte’s order to scrap the VFA.
He also said that aside from the inequities in the VFA’s provisions, the President’s termination of the troops agreement was a consequence of a series of legislative and executive actions by the US government that bordered on assaulting Philippine sovereignty and disrespecting the country’s judicial system.
“In addition, the President believes that our country cannot forever rely on other countries for the defense of the state and should instead strengthen our own resources for our defense,” Panelo said.
“All these actions are anchored on the policy of PRRD to chart an independent foreign policy with our foreign relations with other states being based on national interests and general welfare,” he added.
Panelo said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. signed the notice of termination which was received by the US Embassy in Manila on Tuesday.
It will take effect 180 days after it was received by US Deputy Chief of Mission John Law.
The abrogation of the VFA will have significant effects on the long-standing ties between both countries, the US Embassy said in a statement.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs informed us of the Philippines’ intent to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement,” the US Embassy statement read. “This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance. We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests.”
Panelo said: “We expect no less for such a reaction from the US government following its receipt of the notice of termination of the VFA. Such a commentary is expected given that the VFA favors the US and its abrogation affects its global strategic defensive positioning.”
“From our point of view, however, the decision to terminate the VFA is a move in the right direction that should have been done a long time ago,” he added. “It is about time that we strengthen our defense capabilities. Reliance on another country for our own defenses against the enemies of the state will ultimately weaken and stagnate our defense mechanisms. We must stand on our own and put a stop to being a parasite to another country in protecting our independence and sovereignty.”
Panelo furthered that the Philippine action is consistent and pursuant to its chartering an independent foreign policy, with foreign relations anchored solely on national interest and the general welfare of the people.
“As the President says, ‘We are friends to all, enemies to none.’ Should any country, however, threaten our territorial integrity and assault our sovereignty, we will rise by our own resources and valiantly defend our motherland the way our forefathers did during their time,” Panelo said.
However, the Embassy statement maintained that the US and the Philippines are still committed to the “warm relationship” that is “deeply rooted in history.”
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra agreed to this even as he said that the country survived after the abrogation of the RP-US military bases agreement in 1991.
There is no reason the country cannot weather the termination of the VFA, he said.
The justice chief also said the VFA termination will make the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) practically useless and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) a hollow agreement.
“The termination of the VFA will make the EDCA practically useless and the MDT a hollow agreement. But again note this: we survived the historic termination of the RP-US military bases agreement; there’s no reason why we shall not survive the termination of a mere visiting forces agreement,” Guevarra said.
Published on February 13, 2020
By Alvin Murcia
with Francis T. Wakefield