US defense chief’s comment on VFA ‘expected‘ – Palace
MANILA, Philippines — The reaction of United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper to the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is to be expected, Malacañang said Wednesday as it asserted that the move by the Duterte administration was in the “right direction.”
“We expect no less for such a reaction from the US government following its receipt of the notice of termination of the VFA. Such commentary is expected given that the VFA favors the US and its abrogation affects its global strategic defensive positioning,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“From our point of view, however, the decision to terminate the VFA is a move in the right direction that should have been done a long time ago,” he added.
Earlier, Esper called the looming abrogation of the VFA “a move in the wrong direction.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the sending of a formal notice to the U.S. of his decision to end the pact, which took effect in 1999.
Malacañang said it would take effect 180 days after Washington receives the notice.
Duterte earlier threatened to terminate the agreement following the cancellation of former top cop and Senator Ronald Dela Rosa’s U.S. visa.
The President said his U.S. President Donald Trump has moved to save the agreement, but he stood firm on terminating the VFA.
He said the U.S. had been meddling with the Philippines’ domestic affairs, including seeking for the release of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of his administration.
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