Philippines Says, Ending Military Pact With U.S. “In The Right Direction”

MANILA, Feb 13 (NNN-ABN) – Spokesman of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said, Manila’s move to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States “is in the right direction.”

From the point of view of the Philippines, presidential spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said, the decision to terminate the VFA “is a move in the right direction that should have been done a long time ago.”

The Philippine government on Tuesday, officially notified the U.S. government about Duterte’s decision, to scrap the VFA that allows the U.S. forces to take part in large-scale joint military exercises with Philippine troops.

The Philippines said, the termination will take effect 180 days later and will not need U.S. concurrence.

U.S. Defence Secretary, Mark Esper, said, Manila’s withdrawal “would be a move in the wrong direction.”

Panelo slammed Esper’s statement, saying, the U.S. defence chief’s commentary “is expected, given that the VFA favours the United States and its abrogation affects its global strategic defensive positioning.”

“It is about time that the Philippines strengthen our defence capabilities,” Panelo said.

“Reliance on another country for our own defences against the enemies will ultimately weaken and stagnate our defence mechanisms. We must stand on our own and put a stop to being a parasite to another country, in protecting our independence and sovereignty,” he said.

“Should any country, however, threatens our territorial integrity and assault our sovereignty, we will rise by our own resources and valiantly defend our motherland the way our forefathers did during their time,” he added.

When Duterte, who has been harshly critical of U.S. policies, came to power in 2016, he decided to chart an independent foreign policy course, saying, the Philippines is “a friend to all, and enemies to none.”

The Philippines and the United States signed, in 1998, a VFA, allowing joint Philippine-U.S. military operations. The Philippine senate ratified the agreement in 1999, seven years after the closure of the last U.S. base on Philippine territory.– NNN-ABN