MANILA - The head of the Senate's foreign relations committee on Friday said he plans to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte to ask for "more time" to review the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States before pulling out of the deal.
The government should also look at how Washington might react to Manila's action, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III told reporters when asked about his planned discussion with Duterte. The two are allies and belong to the same party, PDP-Laban.
“We are dealing with a sovereign nation. If the Philippines pushes one button, hindi mo masasabing (you can't say) that other party will not push that several buttons available to it,” he said.
The Senate panel "agrees" with Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. that the VFA "needs a vigorous review," but Manila has to use its "charm" so that the US "will not feel slighted, hurt, insulted" that it may affect the Philippines' other agreements with the world's largest economy, he said.
On Thursday, Locsin told senators that the Philippines stands to lose billions-worth of US aid, as well as good foreign relations with other American allies in the region should Duterte opt to abrogate the VFA.
A day after the Senate inquiry, Duterte decided to push through with the abrogation of the pact, which governs the conduct of US troops in the Philippines, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told ABS-CBN News.
"The President said he is terminating the VFA. I asked for clarification and he said he is not changing his decision," Lorenzana said.
Duterte decided to scrap the VFA after the US canceled the multiple-entry visa of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, his decades-long ally who headed the government's intensified campaign against illegal drugs when he was police chief.
- report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News