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No stopping Duterte from ending VFA

There’s no holding him back from scrapping the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, adding that he would also ban Cabinet members from visiting the United States.

He is “toning down” relations with the United States, the President told reporters at the anniversary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. His decision was no whim or caprice, he said.

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“It started when they mentioned (that) resolution in the US Senate, trying to figure out who would be barred from entering (the US). Even then, my mind was working. I’m like that. I just announced late,” he said.

The President last week warned that he would terminate the VFA unilaterally unless the United States “corrected” its cancellation of the US visa of his former police chief, now senator, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

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He’s doing this not just for Senator Dela Rosa, but for every Filipino, especially government officials who want to go there on official business, Mr. Duterte said.

“I will not allow any Cabinet member to go there,” he said, adding that the ban would be indefinite.

“So that we limit our contact and whatever aspect of international relations would be discussed subject to talks,” the President added.

He won’t attend the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit for “strategic and geopolitical considerations,” nor would he send any representative, Mr. Duterte said.

At the Senate, members of the foreign relations committee on Wednesday unanimously agreed to review the country’s military treaties with the United States in the wake of President Duterte’s threat to scrap the VFA, a 1999 agreement between the United States and the Philippines allowing periodic visits of American troops and the holding of joint military exercises.

Committee chair Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said his colleagues moved to conduct a public hearing next week to assess the military agreements between the Philippines and the United States, including the VFA, the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Sen. Franklin Drilon filed Senate Resolution No. 305 urging his colleagues to insist on the upper chamber’s authority to decide on the possible termination of VFA and similar agreements with foreign countries.

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“The power to bind the Philippines by a treaty and international agreement is vested jointly by the Constitution in the President and the Senate,” Drilon said.

Sen. Richard Gordon similarly argued that the Senate “must assert itself as the third branch of the government involving treaty-making (policies).”In the House, former rebel junior officer and Magdalo Rep. Manuel Cabochan III on Wednesday filed a resolution opposing President Duterte’s “unilateral decision” to terminate the VFA, saying it would “compromise the long-standing and cordial diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the US.”

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TAGS: Duterte, Palace, US, US Senate, VFA, Visiting Forces Agreement
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