'Thank you, next': Trump fine with ending defense pact with Philippines
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - February 13, 2020 - 8:43am

MANILA, Philippines — Contrary to his Defense chief's earlier remarks, US President Donald Trump admitted that he does not mind the Philippines terminating its Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier said the decision of the Philippines to end the defense pact was a "move in the wrong direction."

Trump, however, views this move of President Rodrigo Duterte differently.

"I never minded that very much, to be honest," Trump told reporters Wednesday. 

The transcript of his remarks are uploaded on the official website of the White House.

Noting that the US helped the Philippines in its campaign against ISIS-inspired militants in Marawi City in 2017, Trump said the two countries have a "very good relationship there."

"But I — I really don’t mind.  If they would like to do that, that’s fine.  We’ll save a lot of money," Trump said.

"You know, my views are different than other people.  I view it as, 'Thank you very much.  We save a lot of money,'" he added.

Trump continued to claim that US troops "came in" and "literally, single-handedly" saved the Philippines from the attacks of terrorists in Marawi City almost three years ago.

Good relationship with Duterte

The American president also noted that he has a good relationship with Duterte.

"And my relationship, as you know, is a very good one with their leader.  And we’ll see what happens. They’ll have to tell me that," Trump said.

Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin confirmed that the Philippines had issued its notification to the US about the country's decision to abrogate the VFA.

While US Defense chief Esper considered the Philippines' decision as an "unfortunate" move, Malacañang said terminating the VFA was a "move in the right direction" and should have been done a long time ago.

"Our studied action is consistent and pursuant to our chartering an independent foreign policy, with our foreign relations anchored solely on national interest and the general welfare of our people," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 3, 2020 - 9:16am

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which will expire 180 days after the notice of termination is sent to the US.

That notice was sent on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, according to Philippine government officials.

Duterte had previously warned the United States that he will terminate the VFA if the cancellation of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa's US visa—believed but not confirmed to have been over the continued detention of Sen. Leila De Lima and the government's "war on drugs"—is not "corrected".

The decision to terminate comes amid a resolution by the Senate recognizing the president's authority to terminate agreements and treaties but also asking him to hold off on the decision while lawmakers conduct a review of the VFA and other agreements with America.

Activist groups have been calling on the government to scrap the deal since 1999, saying the Visiting Forces Agreement favors the US, keeps the Philippine military dependent on assistance and aid, and puts the Philippines at risk from America's enemies.

Main photo: In this May 19, 2018 file photo, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat and US Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley lead the ceremonial furling of the Balikatan flag during the closing ceremony of the Philippine-US military exercises. The STAR/Boy Santos

June 3, 2020 - 9:16am

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will consult with the Office of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces on issues that need to be addressed on the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA with the United States.

According to Lorenzana, the country's defense establishment is ready to continue working with the US on common concerns, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In times of crises and global uncertainty, it is our belief that nations are only made stronger if we work together and focus our efforts on tackling the various challenges that confront us all," Lorenzana says in a statement.

June 2, 2020 - 8:24pm

The Philippines has suspended the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US "in light of political and other developments" in the region, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says.

According to a diplomatic note that Locsin posted on his Twitter account, "the suspension shall start on even date and shall continue for six months" that the Philippines can extend for another six months.

The Philippines formally informed the US on February 11 that it is ending the VFA. Termination would have been effective 180 days from receipt of the notice.

March 5, 2020 - 1:34pm

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers is calling on the Senate to not get in the way of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, saying a resolution that the chamber adopted shows "who among our top legislators remain to be partial to the US."

The Senate this week adopted a resolution asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether the concurrence of the Senate is needed in abrogating treaties, as it is in ratifying them.

The move "seems like a thinly veiled, last minute attempt to salvage [the Philippines'] unequal ties with US, and puts into question our senators' loyalty to the country over protecting foreign interests," ACT national chairperson Joselyn Martinez says in a release.

"Legitimizing the use of our territories and resources for US military purposes violates our sovereignty. So does allowing US soldiers' presence in our lands all-year round and letting them get away with several cases of grave human rights violations against our peoples," Martinez also says.

March 1, 2020 - 9:27am

The Philippines should enter into a military agreement with the US like the Visiting Forces Agreement but with the status of "a real treaty ratified by the Senate of the Philippines and Senate of the United States."

And the House of Representatives should be part of the negotiations for it, Rep. Raul Tupas (Iloilo) says in a release.

"Let us learn from the lessons of these past decades. The VFT should be a treaty between equal sovereign states, far removed from the relationship status of former colonizer and former colonized with excess baggage from World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War," Tupas, chair of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, says.

"While the Senate has the power of treaty concurrence, the House of Representatives has the power of the purse," he says as he urges the inclusion of legislators in the negotiations "for comprehensiveness, completeness, and circumspection before, during, and after the negotiations with the United States."

February 13, 2020 - 9:44am

Military exercises with the US wthin the 180 days from the notice of termination will continue as planned, radio dzMM reports, quoting Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

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