By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang said it respects United States President Donald Trump’s pronouncement that he did not mind President Duterte’s decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said it was “natural” for Trump to make such comment especially after the United States has long benefited from the military deal with the country.
“We can understand. Again, as I said, when you do something that is unsatisfactory to the other side, natural lang iyon na may sasabihin sila (It’s natural for him to say something). We respect that the way they should respect ours,” he said in an interview with DZBB radio Thursday.
Trump has brushed aside Duterte’s decision to scrap the VFA, saying he did not mind and it would save money. He reportedly said the United States has helped the Philippines “very much” in defeating Islamic State-linked militants.
READ MORE: Trump ‘fine’ with end of PH military pact
The Philippine government recently formally informed the U.S. government about its desire to terminate the VFA, which governs the conduct of American troops visiting the country. The termination of the VFA, signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., will take 180 days upon receipt of the U.S. government.
Panelo said the President considered the military agreement an “onerous” agreement that largely favored the Americans. He said Duterte wanted the country to stand on its own and fortify its defense capabilities without relying too much on other countries.
“Sila ang kumbaga naperwisyo dahil sila naman talaga ang nakikinabang dito sa visiting forces agreement. Kailangan nila ‘yun sa kanilang pangkalahatang pagdepensa sa kanilang bansa (They are the ones affected because they have benefited from the visiting forces agreement. They needed that for the strategic defense of their nation),” he said in a later television interview.
“Ang mahalaga kay Presidente ito na ang panahon, matagal na dapat na kumalas tayo diyan.” (What’s important to the President is that this is the time, we should have pulled out from that agreement long ago.)