MANILA- Malacañang insisted Wednesday on pushing for a self-reliant Philippine military after Washington’s defense chief said the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement would be a “move in the wrong direction.”
Terminating the Philippines’ VFA with the United States should have been done “a long time ago,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said as US Defense Secretary Mark Esper lamented Manila’s decision to terminate the military pact, which governs the conduct of American soldiers in the Philippines.
“We must stand on our own and put a stop to being a parasite to another country in protecting our independence and sovereignty,” Panelo said.
“Should any country, however, threaten our territorial integrity and assault our sovereignty, we will rise by our own resources and valiantly defend our motherland the way our forefathers did during their time,” he added.
Esper’s comments are “expected,” Panelo explained, since the VFA is favorable to Washington’s “global strategic defensive positioning.”
Washington received on Tuesday Manila’s formal notification of its intent to pull out of the agreement. The cancellation, under the agreement, would take effect 180 days after the US receives the notice.
The Philippines pushed through with the termination of the military deal even after several of its top officials warned of the consequences of doing so.
The Philippines and US have regularly held joint military training. Washington has also provided military aid to the Filipino military through equipment donations and capability-building.
“Our studied action is consistent and pursuant to our chartering an independent foreign policy, with our foreign relations anchored solely on national interest and the general welfare of our people,” Panelo said.
“From our point of view however, the decision to terminate the VFA is a move in the right direction that should have been done a long time ago,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA after the US canceled the visa of his long-time ally, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, among chief enforcers of his bloody drug war.