Palace says Philippines-US ties ''lukewarm''
Malacanang described on Friday as "lukewarm" the relationship between the Philippines and the United States.
This as President Rodrigo Duterte has decided not to proceed with the trip to the US following President Donald Trump's invitation to the ASEAN leaders for a summit in March.
"We'll he (Duterte) said he's not going," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters in Malacanang of Duterte's latest decision regarding Trump's invitation.
Asked to describe the ties now between Manila and Washington, the official said, "Maybe we can say that it's not as warm as before. It's lukewarm."
Panelo, who is also the presidential legal counsel, again hit the US senators who pushed for the inclusion in their 2020 Budget Law a provision that bars Philippine government officials from entering America due to their role in the continued detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima.
"For one, as we said earlier, the manner of the US senators to release de Lima is an intrusion to our sovereignty rights as a state because they cannot dictate on us or bully us into releasing a citizen of this country who is lawfully detained. And number two, when they introduced an amendment barring officials of the government who are perceived to be on the part of de Lima and others who have supported her, (it) would be again tantamount to our mind as a disrespect," he said.
He said the US has not specified the banned Filipino officials while the Philippine government named some US senators who are barred here.
Senator Ronald dela Rosa was so far the only official who admitted that his US visa has been canceled.
"So the President feels that we cannot sit down and just watch idly," Panelo said.
Panelo said Duterte ordered the concerned government officials to start the process of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.
"You must remember the Visiting Forces Agreement gives so many privileges and rights specifically to those who are accused of crimes committed here by military officers. Apart from that, they can come here at will, their ships visit our country. So the process for terminating the same has started," he said.
Panelo said that US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim was seeking a meeting with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to discuss the "latest development." Celerina Monte/DMS