‘Diplomatic and statesmanlike’ approach preferable in sending message to US—Lacson

Published February 14, 2021, 10:10 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Sunday said President Duterte should have made a diplomatic and statesmanlike approach when he addressed his concerns regarding the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson (Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

Lacson said the way Duterte made the pronouncement last Friday may have given the impression that the Philippines is a “nation of extortionists.”

In his speech in Clark, Pampanga on February 12, Duterte said: “I’d like to put on notice– if there’s an American agent here– that from now on, you want the Visiting Forces Agreement done? You have to pay.”

  Lacson pointed out, one cannot put a price tag on the value of the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) on the Philippines.

“The President may have used strong words to send his message across to the US.   But certainly, there is a more civil and statesmanlike manner to ask for compensation from a longtime ally using the usual diplomatic channels and still get the same desired results,” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense.

  In pursuing national interest, the senator said the Philippine government should make sure the US holds up its end of the agreement, but diplomatic channels are the better route to accomplish the same results.

“At least give the other party an elbow room to save face instead of looking bullied and stripped of dignity,” he said in a tweet on Saturday.

“It was in that context that I posted a tweet on the matter on Saturday. I decided to take it down after giving it a thought that the President’s intention was to get a fair shake of the agreement, only he could have said it in a more diplomatic way,” he explained.

“On crucial issues such as this, there should be no room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding moving forward,” he added.

Lacson earlier said the Philippines need the VFA especially with recent Chinese intrusions into Philippine territory, particularly the West Philippine Sea.

The former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief also said the last thing the country should lose is the balance of power that its allies, including the US, “can provide to suit our national interest and territorial integrity.”