MANILA — All members of the Cabinet have expressed support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US), Malacañang said on Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement to dispute the claim of Senator Panfilo Lacson that Duterte’s revocation of VFA was not fully backed by all Cabinet members.
“All members of the Cabinet support PRRD’s foreign policy,” Panelo said.
Lacson on Thursday claimed that several Cabinet officials have apprehensions and reservations about Duterte’s move to scrap the 1998 military deal between Manila and Washington.
He added that some of Duterte’s Cabinet have also raised worry about the possible repercussions of the Chief Executive’s abrogation of the VFA.
In a television interview, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Lacson’s statement was mere “speculation.”
Nograles said when Duterte makes a decision or gives a directive, the entire Cabinet is “behind him.”
“Let me assure, everybody, that when the President makes a decision, all, the entire Cabinet will support him there. And that includes VFA,” he said.
Nograles also reiterated Duterte’s stance that scrapping VFA was meant to pursue his administration’s independent foreign policy.
“Basically, that’s the message. I mean, consistent naman si Pangulo diyan eh (the President is consistent there). We will pursue an independent foreign policy where we are friends to everyone and enemies to none. And I think when the President gave that statement, I think all he’s saying is that hindi tayo pwede mag side sa kahit sino (we will not side with anyone from other countries),” he said.
The VFA, signed in February 1998, allows the entry of US troops sans passport and visa regulations so they can participate in joint military drills in the Philippines.
Duterte first threatened to rescind VFA following the cancelation of US visa of his ally, former police chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
He later decided to end the military pact, prompting the Department of Foreign Affairs to send a formal termination notice to the US government on February 11.
The VFA expires 180 days after the receipt of the notice of termination. (iam/sovereignph.com/PNA)