Duterte shuns military pact with China

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said President Duterte will not enter into any treaty similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with China or any other country as the Chief Executive is determined to let the country stand on its own.

President Rodrigo Duterte at the Sangley Point, Saturday (JANESEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN) President Rodrigo Duterte (JANESEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN/ FILE)

In an interview over ANC, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Duterte was not open to any kind of renegotiation with the United States to save the VFA, and that he rejected the idea of being allied with other nations, particularly China.

"Sabi niya (He said), 'No.' Tinanong ko siya, eh. Ibig sabihin talagang desidido siya doon. Tumayo na tayo sa sarili nating kakayanan (I asked him. That means he's decided. We should stand on our own). If we have to spend more, then we'll spend more," he said.

"Ayaw niya talaga, eh (President Duterte really doesn't want it)," he added.

However, Panelo said that while the Philippines was not seeking any military alliances with other nations, the country will accept offers to help improve the Philippines' defense capabilities.

"Kung lumapit sila at mag-offer ng ganito at makakatulong sa atin... Alam mo, sabi ni Presidente, 'Basta palaging national interest and general welfare, kung makakatulong sa atin, payag ako diyan' (If they approach us and offer us something that can help us... You know, the President said he is for anything that will be beneficial to us and will promote our national interest and general welfare)," he said.

President Duterte announced the termination of the VFA last month following the cancellation of Senator Ronald dela Rosa's US visa. The Palace has explained that Dela Rosa's visa cancellation was just the last straw and that Duterte started thinking of scrapping the VFA since US lawmakers started calling for the release of Senator Leila de Lima.

How did it help us?

Meanwhile, Panelo reiterated in the same interview that it was time to scrap the VFA, saying the Philippines cannot improve its defense capabilities if it kept on relying on its allies.

"Ilang taon na tayong ganito, na-strengthen ba natin? Hindi. Kasi umaasa nga tayo, eh (We've had that for so many years, have we strengthened our defense? No. Because we kept on relying on them)," he said.

The Palace official also said that the US did not do much during the Marawi Siege in 2017 where the government forces fought ISIS-inspired terrorists for five months.

"Sabi nga ni Secretary Lorenzana (Like what Secretary Lorenzana said), 'Eh, bakit? Ano ba'ng ginawa ng Amerikano doon sa Marawi? Eh, sharing of intelligence lang naman sila, ah (What did the Americans do in Marawi? They just shared intelligence)?" Panelo said.

"Para kasi naman kung palabasin nila parang sila ang nag-crush. Hindi naman totoo rin yun (They make it appear that they were the ones who crushed those terrorists. That's not true)," he added.

"Sabi ni Presidente (The President said), 'Ito lang ang kalaban natin. Kaya natin 'yon. Dahil kung hindi natin kaya 'yon, wala tayong karapatang maging gobyerno (The terrorists are our only enemies. We can defeat them. If we can't, then we have no right of being in government),'" he continued.