Palace on VFA termination: It's about time to rely on our own resources
It is now time for the Philippines to rely on its resources after the government sent a notice to the United States to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement on the order of President Rodrigo Duterte, a Palace official said on Tuesday.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this was the statement of the President following his directive to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to tell Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to send the notice of termination to the US government on Monday night.
"And the Executive Secretary sent the message to Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin and the latter signed the notice of termination and then sent to the US government today," he said.
The abrogation of VFA would be effective 180 days after Washington receives the notice from the Philippine government.
Asked of the Philippines' options when it comes to strengthening the government's defense capability once the VFA is terminated, Panelo said he learned from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that one country has offered to enter into another agreement with Manila.
He said from what he heard from Lorenzana, it was the United Kingdom which expressed interest.
"So, there are other countries offering. But as the President said, it's about time we rely on our own resources. We have to strengthen our own capability as a country relative to the defense of our land," he said.
He further quoted Duterte as saying that if the Philippines keeps on relying to US, the country's defense capability further weakens.
Even if the VFA has been on the process of termination, Panelo said the Senate's review on the treaty could still be helpful to the government once it enters into another defense agreement with other countries.
"It's better that they are conducting the review so that we will know from their point of view if indeed we have been disadvantaged in entering into this agreement, so that future agreements will be based on fairness, mutual benefits to both agreeing nations," said Panelo, also chief presidential legal counsel.
Despite ending the VFA, Panelo expressed hope that the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and the US would be warmer.
"It remains warm, hopefully it could be warmer," he said.
Asked why he was still optimistic for warmer ties with Washington, he said, "Because I’ve been noticing that who have been critical of the US government policies have been given the preferential attention of the US government. If they are being hit, they are courting their allies."
On January 23, Duterte ordered the abrogation of the VFA after the US canceled the visa of administration ally Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
Dela Rosa did not know why his visa was canceled but he expressed belief that it was due to allegations against his alleged involvement in human rights violations when he was still the chief of the Philippine National Police.
The PNP is one of the government agencies that has been implementing Duterte's all-out war against illegal drugs, resulting in the death of over 5,000 individuals. Celerina Monte/DMS