President Rodrigo Duterte was not inclined to seek military alliances with other countries following his decision to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement between Manila and Washington, the Palace said Friday, contrary to what was earlier floated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
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Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the commander-in-chief wanted to strengthen the country’s own defense capabilities.
“That’s why we are strengthening our own forces. We will start purchasing high-tech weapons,” Panelo said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
Earlier, AFP chief General Felimon Santos Jr. said they were planning to expand military relations with South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and other allies to “fill the gap” left by the VFA’s termination.
The Philippines officially notified the US
government of its intention to a brogate the VFA on Tuesday—a move seen by analysts as disadvantageous to the US and beneficial to China, which seeks to expand its influence in Asia.
The termination will take effect in 180 days.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would not mind
if the Philippines ended its military agreement with them as “it will save a lot of money.”
Panelo shrugged off Trump’s remark. In a press briefing, he said: “We’re not sure if he [Trump] is serious with that. Let’s see how his words will match the actions of the US government.”
READ: Duterte to Trump: No to VFA, period
Panelo also clarified that the move to terminate the VFA was not a signal of the Philippines to shift alliances with China, whom President Duterte sought closer ties with.
“The President says, this is a new foreign policy. And the foreign policy is: Friends to all, enemies to none. And he says that foreign policy will be based solely on our national interest and general welfare of the people,” Panelo said.
Meanwhile, the looming termination of the VFA should not be used as entry point for negotiations with new military agreements with China, Japan or any other foreign power that seek only to exploit Philippine resources and strategically position their forces for their geopolitical advantage, a Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said Friday.
“The AFP is shameless in flaunting its eagerness to entertain a new master. Forging a new VFA to allow new foreign military partners to conduct war games on our soil only exposes the hypocrisy of President Duterte’s rants to supposedly assert Philippine sovereignty,” she said.
In a separate statement, Gabriela slammed Trump after the American leader said the US stands to save money from the termination of the VFA.
“US imperialism has benefited immensely in its military intervention in the Philippines,” said Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general.
“We raise much alarm, heeding painful lessons from the years of US-Philippines military relations: joint exercises, unli-entry of foreign troops and pre-positioning of military assets have not improved our external defense capabilities,” said Brosas.
Duterte should instead repel Beijing’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea as well as the expansion of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators near the military bases, the lawmaker said.
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