Duterte for VFA termination, says spokesman

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2020 04:04 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte. File

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte is for the termination of the Philippines' visiting forces agreement with the US, his spokesman said Monday, after the defense secretary said over the weekend that there were no formal orders to do so.

Duterte will order the cancellation of the accord, however, he has yet to relay the instructions to other members of the Cabinet, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

"I asked him (Duterte), 'Is your position unchanged?' [He said] 'yes.' I think mas importante yun, ang position niya (I think the President's position is what's important)," Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.

"Ibig sabihin ipapaterminate niya talaga (This means he will really have it terminated)," he said.

Panelo issued the statement after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said over the weekend that there was no order yet to terminate the VFA. The spokesman said he sought clarification from the defense chief.

"Ang kausap lang namin si Presidente. We don't have to talk to each other, kaming mga members of the Cabinet, kasi isa lang naman sinasabi sa amin ni Presidente eh," Panelo said.

(We only talk to the President. We members of the Cabinet don't have to talk to each other because the President only tells us one thing.)

The VFA governs rules on the conduct of visiting US forces in the Philippines. Duterte ordered its termination after the US canceled the visa of his ally and former drug war administrator, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa.

The US did not cite the reason for the former police chief's visa cancellation, but it happened after American senators passed a resolution that sought to impose some sanctions against Philippine officials responsible for the detention of Duterte's critic, Sen. Leila De Lima.

Under the agreement, the treaty will be deemed terminated 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other a notice in writing.