Bayan hopes Duterte's 'assertion of sovereignty' leads to scrapping of VFA, EDCA


MANILA, Philippines –  A militant group on Tuesday lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for what it called the president's move to assert Philippine sovereignty against the United States.

“For the first time in forever, a Philippine president has the backbone to reject US intervention. We hope this assertion extends to terminating unequal agreements such as the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) and EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) . We hope this assertion of sovereignty extends to ending the US Balikatan war games,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a statement.

The group, which has members and supporters in the Duterte Cabinet, released the statement a day after Duterte warned US President Barack Obama against "lecturing" him on the human rights situation in the Philippines, where around 2,000 people have died in police operations in the government's war on drugs and in drug-related killings.

The US has expressed "deep concern" over the killings, echoing concerns also recently raised by the United Nations.

Before leaving for the  Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Vientiane, Laos, Duterte insisted he is not a lapdog of the US and will refuse to bow down to Obama on the issue of extrajudicial killings.

"We recognize the significant burden that the drug trade plays not just in the Philippines but around the world, and fighting narco-trafficking is tough. But we will always assert the need to have due process and to engage in that fight against drugs in a way that's consistent with basic international norms. And so, undoubtedly, if and when we have a meeting this is something that is going to be brought up," Obama said in response to Duterte's remarks, which included swear words.

The meeting between the two presidents has been postponed following the remarks but Bayan said it is not a big loss to the country.

The Palace has said that it "regrets" that Duterte's remarks "came across as a personal attack on the US president." It also said that "[w]e look forward to ironing out differences arising out of national priorities and perceptions, and working in mutually responsible ways for both countries." 

Bayan said Duterte can deal with domestic issues the country is facing like the latest Davao bombing without relying on US intervention in Mindanao. Bayan also said that Duterte can promote the Philippines’ interest in the West Philippine Sea -- tha part of the South China Sea within the country's exclusive economic zone -- without the help of the US which it claimed, is “only after its own agenda.”

“We stand with Duterte is asserting Philippine sovereignty against any form of neo-colonial imposition and intervention,” the group said.

READ: Duterte on possible confrontation with Obama: Who is he?

“The cancelled meeting between US President Barack Obama and PH President Rodrigo Duterte is not a big loss as far as the Filipino people are concerned,” Bayan said.

“The US is expected to feign concern for human rights and then arm-twist the Philippines regarding the US imperialist agenda in the country and the West Philippine Sea. The meeting was more for US neo-colonial interests than anything else,” it added. —Rosette Adel

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