PHL gains US’ respect on VFA termination: Panelo

The Philippines has gained respect from the United States (US) following the termination of the Visiting of Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement a day after US President Donald Trump said it was fine with him that President Rodrigo Duterte ended the Philippines’ 22-year-old military agreement with the US.

“Yes, of course,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing when asked if Manila gains Washington’s respect after VFA’s revocation. “How? By terminating it, we show them that we do not need them.”

The termination of VFA, which was signed in February 1998, will take effect 180 days following the receipt of formal notice sent by the Philippines to the US on Tuesday.

According to the transcript of his remarks uploaded on the official website of the White House, Trump viewed Duterte’s latest action as a welcome development since the US will “save a lot of money.”

“I really don’t mind. If they would like to do that, that’s fine. We’ll save a lot of money,” Trump said.

Trump, nevertheless, said he has a “very good” relationship with Duterte, and stressed that he is still unsure of what will happen next.

“We’ll see what happens. They’ll have to tell me that,” he said.

Panelo said the Palace respects Trump’s response to Duterte’s abrogation of Manila’s VFA with Washington.

He, however, expressed doubts over the seriousness of Trump’s remarks.

“The statements of Mr. Trump, we do not know exactly whether he was very serious (about) that. You must remember that the VFA and other treaties are there precisely because of the global, strategic, defensive positioning of the United States,” Panelo said.

Panelo said Trump seemed to have agreed with Duterte that it is about time for the Philippines to boost its defense capabilities sans the help of other countries like its long-time ally, the US.

“Maybe he (Trump) agrees with the position of the President that it is time that we stand on our own resources and defend our country from enemies of the state by ourselves and not rely on the help of other countries. We weaken ourselves if we keep on being (a) parasite to any of the countries,” he said.