Palace: PH open to sign defense agreements with other nations
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines is open to establish defense agreements with other countries after it officially terminated the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
Malacañang issued the statement Tuesday after the Department of Foreign Affairs officially sent the notice to terminate the VFA to the U.S. government.
However, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo noted that President Rodrigo Duterte wants to focus on strengthening the Philippines’ own defense capability and avoid relying on other nations.
“As long as there’s mutual benefit to both countries we are open (to military alliance) but the President, again I repeat, he said that it’s about time we rely on ourselves. We will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on other countries,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
The Palace official revealed that there are some countries already reaching out to the Philippines to offer defense pacts.
But he insisted that Duterte has made it clear that if the government is to deal with other countries again, “we have to deal on the basis of equality and fairness” and avoid a “one-sided agreement.”
Malacañang earlier flagged some “one-sided privileges” visiting American soldiers enjoy under the VFA.
Panelo said under the military pact, the Philippines cannot have jurisdiction over American soldiers who committed crimes unless the crime is “of significant importance.” They are also not required to apply for a visa, Panelo claimed, adding that U.S. aircraft and ships are given “unrestricted movement” within Philippine territories.
The VFA, which took effect in 1999, accorded legal status to visiting American soldiers in the Philippines and serves as a foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the US.
Duterte ordered its termination after the U.S. canceled the visa of his longtime confidant Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who once led his bloody war on drugs as chief of the Philippine National Police.
Since taking power in 2016, the firebrand President has repeatedly alluded to severing ties with the U.S. while pursuing closer ties with the country’s non-traditional allies Russia and China. His dismay over the U.S. came in the wake of criticisms made by some American officials on his bloody war on drugs.
Edited by MUF
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