Palace expects US reaction on looming VFA termination as move to affect Washington's
Malacanang said on Wednesday that the United States' reaction to the Philippine decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement was expected since it would affect Washington's "global strategic defensive positioning."
In a phone patch interview, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, insisted what President Rodrigo Duterte has said that this is now the time for the Philippines to stand on its own.
"We expect no less for such a reaction from the US government following its receipt of the notice of termination of the VFA," he said.
"Such a commentary is expected given that the VFA favors the US and its abrogation affects its global strategic defensive positioning," said Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel.
The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, send on Tuesday the notice to Washington of its intention to abrogate the treaty.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, however, said the VFA termination with the Philippines would be "a move in the wrong direction," especially in relation to China's actuation in the South China Sea.
He has said that the Philippines and other allies have been trying to tell China to obey the international rules of order amid the latter's continuous aggressive claim in almost the entire South China Sea, including those areas within the exclusive economic zones of other claimant countries.
Under the Duterte administration, Panelo said that the move to end the VFA was in the "right direction that should have been done a long time ago."
"It is about time that we strengthen our defense capabilities. Reliance on another country for our own defenses against the enemies of the state will ultimately weaken and stagnate our defense mechanisms. We must stand on our own and put a stop to being a parasite to another country in protecting our independence and sovereignty," he explained.
He said the government's "studied" action was consistent and pursuant to the Philippine chartering an independent foreign policy, with its foreign relations anchored solely on national interest and the general welfare of the Filipinos.
"As the President says, 'We are friends to all, enemies to none.' 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. Celerina Monte/DMS