Palace: Trump ‘fine’ with VFA termination? It remains to be seen
MANILA, Philippines— “Let’s see how his words will match the actions of the US government.”
This was presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo’s response Thursday to the statement of US President Donald Trump, who brushed aside President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US, saying he did not really mind and it would save his government “a lot of money.”
“If they would like to do that, that’s fine, we’ll save a lot of money,” Trump said.
Asked if he thinks that the American leader’s statement is serious, Panelo said: “It remains to be seen. As I said, words are less louder than actions.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs, upon Duterte’s order, officially sent the notice of termination of the two-decade-old military pact, a decision US Defense Secretary Mark Esper called “unfortunate” and “a move in the wrong direction.”
The termination will take effect 180 days after receipt of the Philippines’ notice.
The VFA, signed in 1998, accorded legal status to US troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.
Panelo repeated that Duterte will not entertain any move from the US government to salvage the VFA.
“That is his position. That’s the President’s position. He won’t entertain any initiatives coming from the US government,” he said
Since taking power in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly alluded to severing ties with the US while pursuing closer ties with the country’s non-traditional allies like Russia and China.
Duterte ordered the termination of the military pact after the US canceled the visa of his longtime confidant Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who has also led his bloody war on drugs.
According to Panelo, Duterte believes it’s about time the Philippines strengthen its own defense capability as it cannot “forever” rely on the protection of the US, its former colonizer, and the biggest military ally.