“I never minded that very much, to be honest. We helped the Philippines very much. We helped them defeat ISIS. I get along — actually, I have a very good relationship there,” United States President Donald Trump said during a briefing at the White House on February 12 when asked about Philippines’ decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“But I — I really don’t mind. If they would like to do that, that’s fine. We’ll save a lot of money,” he added.
“You know, my views are different than other people. I view it as, “Thank you very much. We save a lot of money”,” Trump noted.
“But if you look back — if you go back three years ago, when ISIS was overrunning the Philippines, we came in and, literally, single-handedly were able to save them from vicious attacks on their islands. But I haven’t heard exactly that, what you — the way you expressed the question,” Trump explained.
“And my relationship, as you know, is a very good one with their leader. And we’ll see what happens. They’ll have to tell me that,” the US President said.
For United States Secretary of Defense Mark Thomas Esper the termination of VFA is “unfortunate”.
“In my view, it’s unfortunate that they would make this move. As you all know, as some of you know, I was just there. Some of you were with me – had very good meetings with Philippine – Philippine defense officials, to include my counterpart who is a – a very interlocutor on these matters,” Esper explained.
He also said that he thinks “it would be a move in the wrong direction as – as we both bilaterally with the Philippines and collectively with a number of other partners and allies in the region are trying to say to the Chinese: “You must obey the international rules of order. You must obey, you know, abide by international norms”.”
“And as we try and, you know, bolster our presence and compete with them in this era of great power competition, I think it’s a move in the wrong direction for – for, again, for the longstanding relationship we’ve had with the Philippines for their strategic location, the ties between our peoples, our countries,” Esper said.
“But look, we just got the notification last night. We’ve got to read it. We’ve got to digest it. One hundred and eighty days. We’ve got to work through it, and – and we’ll just take a deep breath and take it one day at a time,” he explained.