Home National News Malacañang expects warmer PH-US ties despite VFA termination

Malacañang expects warmer PH-US ties despite VFA termination

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

 

MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday expressed optimism that the Philippines will have “warmer” bilateral relations with the United States despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to terminate the 22-year-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two nations.

In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he is expecting the US to give the Philippines, its long-time ally, “preferential attention” following the sending of formal notice of termination of VFA to Washington.

“It remains warm. Hopefully, it could be warmer,” Panelo said when asked to describe the Philippines’ ties with the US after the President’s revocation of the VFA.

“Why? Because I’ve been noticing that those who have been critical of US government policies have been given the preferential attention of the US government. ‘Pag nababanatan sila, sinusuyo nila. ‘Yung mga kakampi nila, inaapi nila. Parang ganoon ang dating (They are appeasing their critics. On the other hand, they have been maltreating their allies. That’s how it goes),” he added.

Panelo’s remarks came the same day when Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that the US has already received the notice of termination of the Manila’s VFA with Washington.

It was on Friday night when Panelo first announced the President’s instruction for Locsin to send the formal notification of revocation of VFA to the US.

The VFA, signed by the Philippines and the US in February 1998, exempts American forces from passport and visa regulations and allows them to use their permits and licenses in the Philippines.

The agreement also gives the US the jurisdiction over the US troops who committed unlawful acts in the Philippines, unless the crimes can be punished in the host country.

PRRD’s signature not needed

Following the President’s latest order, Locsin signed the notice of termination of VFA.

Panelo said there was no need for the President to sign the termination notice.

“Hindi na kailangan (It’s no longer necessary,” he said.

The VFA is terminated 180 days after the US receives the notice of termination from the Philippines.

PRRD ‘offended’ by US’ interference

Duterte scrapped the VFA due to the passage of US 2020 budget which includes a provision imposing travel ban on Philippine officials linked to Senator Leila de Lima’s arrest; US Senate’s demand to release de Lima and passage of a resolution condemning Duterte’s drug war; and US Immigration’s cancellation of Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s visa, Panelo earlier said.

Panelo, during the press briefing, said the intrusion of US executive and legislative branches in the Philippines’ domestic issues “offended” the President, compelling him to take a drastic move against Washington by terminating the VFA.

“It’s the voice of the US government speaking to us through an equal branch of the three branches government of the US,” Panelo said.

“Palaging si Presidente, sinasabi niya, (The President is always saying), if we have to deal with other countries, we have to deal with equality and fairness. Hindi pwedeng one-sided. Iyan ang palaging sinasabi ni Presidente (It should not be one-sided. That’s what he’s always saying),” he added.

Open to VFA with other countries

After the termination of VFA with the US, Panelo raised the possibility that the Philippines might enter a similar deal with other countries, as long as the future agreements would be based on “fairness” and would yield “mutual benefits to both agreeing nations.”

He added that to date, the United Kingdom has expressed openness to forge a military pact with the Philippines.

But for now, the President is focused on strengthening the country’s own defense capabilities, Panelo maintained.

“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. ‘Yun ang pinaka ano ni Presidente. Mahirap yung relying lalo tayong humihina (That’s the President’s main concern. Because the more we rely on other countries, we’re weakening our capability),” he said.

“From the way he talks, tayo na lang muna. Huwag na muna tayong umasa sa ibang bansa (let’s do it on our own. We will not rely on other countries in the meantime). But of course, if the agreement would benefit us, I’m sure we will be open,” Panelo added. (PNA)

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