Duterte won’t let US salvage VFA
February 12, 2020 - Wednesday 6:02 PM by Jon JoaquinNO SAVING DFA. President Rodrigo Duterte, seen here delivering a speech during a meeting with local chief executives on February 10, 2020, will not entertain any initiative from the US government to salvage the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte will not entertain any initiative from the US government to salvage the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which he had ordered terminated on Tuesday, February 11.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo also said the President has also decided not to accept “any official invitation to visit the United States.”
Panelo confirmed that Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. “has signed a notice of our country's desire to terminate the VFA with the United States of America.”
He said the document was delivered to and received by the US Embassy in Manila earlier on Tuesday.
“The recent action undertaken by Secretary Locsin vis-à-vis the VFA was made pursuant to the instruction of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, upon the written direction of the President himself last night, as we have previously announced last Friday,” Panelo said.
Duterte had earlier said he would terminate the VFA after Washington cancelled the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who led the first salvo of the President’s war on drugs.
SECURITY MATTERS. President Duterte presides over the Joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police Command Conference at the Malacañan Palace on February 6, 2020. REY BANIQUET/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
The 1998 VFA is the legal framework for the presence of US troops on Philippine soil and is central to annual joint military exercises.
The VFA requires a 180-day notice to quit.
"This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance," the US embassy in Manila said in a statement.
"We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests," it added.
The VFA has long divided the Philippines, with leftist and nationalist critics long arguing it guarantees special treatment for US service members accused of crimes.
Panelo said aside from the inequities brought about by the provisions found in the VFA, the decision of the President to cause the termination of the agreement is “a consequence of a series of legislative and executive actions by the US government that bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system.”
He said in addition, the President also believes the country “cannot forever rely on other countries for the defense of the state and should instead strengthen our own resources for our defenses.”
“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,” Panelo said.
The 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is the legal framework for the presence of US troops on Philippine soil and is central to annual joint military exercises. STR / AFP FILE PHOTO
For his part, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go said he believes the President has the authority to terminate the VFA.
He also said the US senators who are meddling in the Philippines’ domestic affairs should be taught a lesson.
“Sa totoo lang, dapat bigyan ng leksyon ang mga pakialamerong senador (ng US). Tayo, hindi naman tayo nakikialam sa kanila. Just mind your own business. This is democracy,” he said.
(Those senators need to be taught a lesson. We don’t meddle in their affairs.)
“Panghihimasok po itong ginagawa nila just to pressure us. Wala po kayong karapatang manghimasok sa aming bansa,” he said.
(What they are doing is interfering with us just to pressure us. You have no right to interfere with our affairs.) With a report from Agence France-Presse
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