GOOD LEADER. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and US President Donald Trump share a light moment prior to the bilateral meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on November 13, 2017. Duterte said Trump’s comment on the Visiting Forces Agreement termination makes the latter a ‘good’ leader. (Presidential photo by Robinson Niñal)
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte considers United States (US) President Donald Trump as “good” leader with the decision of the latter to respect his directive to scrap the 22-year-old Visiting Forces Agreement, Malacañang said on Saturday.
Duterte was elated over Trump’s “circumspect and judicious” reaction to the termination of the military deal between the Philippines and the US, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press statement.
“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) welcomes President Trump’s remarks and he is glad that the American President understands and respects his decision to end the Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said.
Duterte, as quoted by Panelo, said: “President Trump is a good President and he deserves to be reelected.”
The VFA, signed between Manila and Washington in February 1998, allows visiting US troops to visit the Philippines without passport and visa, as well as to use their permits and licenses in the host country.
Duterte was forced to end VFA, following the cancellation of US visa of his ally, erstwhile police chief and incumbent Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
The formal termination notice was sent to the US government on Tuesday.
The termination of VFA will take effect 180 days after the notification of the Philippines to the US.
On Wednesday, Trump viewed Duterte’s revocation of VFA as a welcome development since Washington will “save a lot of money.”
Duterte was convinced that Trump understands his latest move, Panelo said.
“The President said that if President Trump were a Filipino and the Philippine President, given his character and principled stand on a matter of national interest, he would have done exactly the same thing he had done, and if he (PRRD) were the US President, he would have given the same reaction,” he said.
Time to stand alone
Apart from dela Rosa’s canceled US visa, the travel ban imposed on Philippine officials linked to Senator Leila de Lima’s arrest, the American senators’ call to release de Lima, and the passage of the Senate resolution condemning Duterte’s drug war were also the among reasons for the revocation of VFA.
Panelo maintained that Duterte deemed as “offensive and blatant disrespect” to the Philippine judicial system the recent actions made by the US government against his administration.
He also considered it as “outright assault” to the Philippines’ sovereignty.
“As a matter of principle and national pride, being the head of an aggrieved and insulted state, he had been compelled to take a bold, decisive and studied action,” Panelo said.
Panelo said the Duterte government, nevertheless, appreciates the US’ help in crushing the Islamic State terrorists during the Marawi siege in May 2017.
He added that the Philippines also thanked Washington for siding with it in fighting the Japanese Imperial forces during the Second World.
But Panelo reiterated that now is the time for the Philippines to stand on its own.
“The time to strengthen our defense capabilities has come. Reliance on another country to defend our motherland from whoever desires to threaten our territorial integrity as well as to assault our sovereignty will only further weaken and stagnate our already limited resources,” he said. (iam/sovereignph.com/PNA)