Palace: Philippines may be open to VFAs with other countries

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Palace: Philippines may be open to VFAs with other countries
In this Apr. 3, 2019 photo, US Naval Special Warfare Operators and Australian Defense Force conduct marksmanship training with their Armed Forces of the Philippines counterparts during Exercise Balikatan 2019 .
US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Chan

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang said that the Philippines is open to establishing pacts like the Visiting Forces Agreement with other countries as long as thse are mutually beneficial to the parties involved.

The Palace earlier Tuesday announced that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his top officials to inform the US that the Philippines is terminating the agreement.

“Basta palaging pabor sa atin, basta kung (As long as it is favorable to us and there is a) mutual benefit to both countries, we are open,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Tuesday press briefing.

“But the president—again, I will repeat, he said it’s about time we rely on ourselves. We will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”

The Philippines already has a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia.

READ: Palace: Duterte orders termination of Visiting Forces Agreement

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodor Locsin Jr., on instructions through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, signed the termination notice of the VFA which was sent to the United States government also on Tuesday.

RELATED: Palace: Duterte orders termination of Visiting Forces Agreement

The said agreement signed in 1998 allows American and Filipino troops to conduct joint training operations in Philippine territory.

It will remain in force for 180 days upon receipt by the US before it is officially terminated.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, the US Embassy acknowledged that the Department of Foreign Affairs "informed us of the Philippines' intent to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement."

On Monday, US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Clarke Cooper told reporters in a phone briefing that terminating the VFA would affect hundreds of "engagements and exercises" between the Philippine and American militaries.

"[T]he United States has about 300 engagements and exercises that we conduct bilaterally with the Philippines," he said.

On Tuesday, the US Embassy said the government's decision "is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance." 

The embassy added: "We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests."

"Our two countries enjoy a warm relationship, deeply rooted in history.  We remain committed to the friendship between our two peoples." 

'Other countries interested'

Panelo speculated that the United Kingdom may be one of the countries that have offered to enter into a defense agreement with the Philippines.

“So mayroon din namang mga ibang bansa na nag-o-offer (So there are also other countries who have offered to enter an agreement with the Philippines),” the presidential spokesperson said. 

“But as the president said, it’s about time we rely on our own resources. We have to strengthen our own capability as a country relative to the defense of our land.”

RELATED: Lorenzana: Philippines doesn't need the VFA indefinitely

Panelo said that Duterte did not mention any particular countries he is considering entering into an agreement with.

"Eh siya nga eh, sa kanya parang ayaw nga niyang mag-enter diba. From the way he talks, parang tayo na lang muna, ‘wag na tayong masyadong umasa diyan sa ibang bansa. But, of course, if the agreement would benefit us, I’m sure we will be open.”

(The president himself seems uninterested in entering any agreement. From the way he talks, it’s like we should be independent for the meantime, let’s not depend too much on other countries.)

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