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Palace won’t stop PH envoy from discussing defense with US

/ 03:37 PM March 02, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang will not stop the Philippines’ ambassador to the United States from discussing defense with his counterpart even as it earlier claimed that the reported discussion of the diplomats to find ways to craft another military deal similar to the Visting Forces Agreement (VFA) is not sanctioned by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez reportedly said he and US Ambassador Sung Kim were trying to find ways to craft another defense pact similar to the VFA, which Duterte unilaterally terminated after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who once served as the President’s police chief and oversaw the bloody war on drugs from 2016 to 2018.

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In a Palace briefing Monday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo stressed that Duterte’s stance against the VFA remains unchanged but conceded that the government cannot prevent Romualdez from engaging the US government as it is part of “diplomacy.”

“You cannot stop the ambassador from entertaining talks or initiatives coming from his counterparts. That’s diplomacy,” Panelo said.

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The Palace official said whatever the results of the two diplomats’ discussion will not be laid to waste as it can be used for “future use.”

Panelo previously claimed that Duterte will no longer entertain any move from the US government to renegotiate or salvage the VFA, which accorded legal status to US troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.

He then reiterated that abrogating VFA is in line with Duterte’s intention to make the Philippines stand on its own in terms of defense and security.

But Panelo said the present military agreements with Australia and even Japan “will remain until such time that they like the US committed acts that are deemed to be an assault on our sovereignty.”

US President Donald Trump earlier said he is fine with the Philippines’ move, adding that the US government would save a lot of money in the termination of the military pact.

“If they would like to do that, that’s fine, we’ll save a lot of money,” Trump said.

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TAGS: Defense, EDCA, Jose Manuel Romualdez, Malacañang, Military, Mutual Defense Treaty, Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo, United States, VFA
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