MANILA – Malacañang clarified Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte has not signified any intent to order the total lifting of the termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US).
In a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the recent suspension of the VFA’s abrogation is not tantamount to its total lifting.
“Ang nangyari lang po, nasuspinde ang termination. Hindi pa po niya sinasabing hindi na tuloy ang termination. So wala pong nagbago sa pag-iisip ng ating Pangulo (What happened is the termination was just suspended. He’s not saying that the termination is already lifted. The President has not changed his mind),” Roque said.
The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has informed the US about its decision to suspend the revocation of the VFA.
The suspension of VFA’s termination is effective for six months but can be extended by the Philippines for another six months, according to the diplomatic note dated June 1 and addressed to the US.
The Philippine government has decided to suspend the abrogation of VFA “in light of political and other developments in the region.”
Roque said the Philippines is recognizing the US, its long-time ally, as a “friend” who can lend a hand especially in the fight against terrorism.
“Alam niyo po, bago na ang anyo ng terorismo ngayon. Wala na pong kinikilalang mga border at wala na pong kinikilalang mga bansa. So lahat po ng bansa na ating kaibigan, Amerika, Tsina, Russia, India, Australia, lahat po sila, importante lahat (You know, terrorism now has a new face. It knows no borders and countries. So, countries like America, China, Russia, India, and Australia are important because we consider them as our friends),” he said.
The VFA is a military agreement signed between the Philippines and the US in 1998 to allow American troops who are participating in joint military deals to go to Manila without passport and visa.
The military deal was supposed to be revoked 180 days after the Philippines sent a formal notice of termination to the US on February 11.
Roque acknowledged that VFA is an “important” pact between Manila and Washington.
“Ang VFA po, well, kasing halaga po siya sa lahat ng ating mga relasyon sa lahat ng ating mga kapitbahay, kapitbayan at lahat pa ng ating alyado (Well, VFA is important like our relations with our neighboring countries and all our allies),” he said, when quizzed if the Philippines can live sans VFA.
Duterte scrapped VFA following the criticism of some US senators against his drug war, as well as the cancellation of the US visa of his ally, former national police chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa. (PNA)