Palace shrugs off Trump's statement over VFA termination
Malacanang shrugged off on Thursday the reaction of US President Donald Trump who even thanked the Philippines for its decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement as Washington could save a lot of money.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Trump could have agreed with President Rodrigo Duterte's position that this is now the time that the Philippines stands on its own resources, defends itself from enemies and does not rely on the help of other countries.
"Then, he is welcome. If he said that, how can we be more Popish than the Pope?" he said when asked of the Palace's reaction over Trump's statement.
Trump said that he did not mind even if the Philippines abrogates the VFA.
He said US could even save a lot of money.
But he noted that during the 2017 Marawi siege, the two countries have a very good relationship in going after the ISIS-Maute terrorists.
Asked if the Philippines gains respect after filing the notice to the US terminating the VFA, Panelo said yes, as he further explained, "we have showed them that we do not need them."
But he added, "Now the statements of Mr. Trump, we do not know exactly whether he was very serious of that. You must remember that the VFA and other treaties are there precisely because of the global strategic defensive positioning of the United States. You must remember that the perceived enemies of the US are very near this country, hence they need us."
"It's advantage to them if we are with them," he added.
Further clarified if the Palace was doubting Trump's statement, Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel, said, "words are less louder than actions."
During the same briefing, Panelo said that if the "body language" of the President is to be followed, he might also want to end the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty with America.
"Well, to be consistent with his stand, then all treaties must go...by the tone of his body language. Because if you said that we have to stand on our own, not rely (on others), that means we'll have to strengthen our own resources, we don't need other countries," he explained.
However, Panelo said the Palace would just wait on the review to be conducted by the Senate on MDT and EDCA.
"I understand the Senate is going to review these two treaties you mentioned, so we’ll wait for the recommendation," he said.
Asked if defense treaties with other countries apart from the US should also go, Panelo said, "I don't know that portion - but what I'm saying... I'm not saying that all treaties must go."
Last Tuesday, the Philippine government through the Department of Foreign Affairs has sent a notice to the US terminating the 22-year old VFA.
The termination will be effective 180 days from the receipt of notice by the other country. Celerina Monte/DMS