Duterte defends VFA termination

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PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte has defended his decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, saying the Philippines has the capability to handle internal security threats on its own.

Kailangan ba natin ang America (Do we need America), the might and power of the United States to fight our rebellion here, and the terrorists down south, and control drugs? We are doing it,” he said in a speech on Wednesday.

Kapag hindi natin kaya (If we canot do it), we have no business in being a Republic. We choose: We can be a territory of America or we can be a province of China,” Mr. Duterte added.

Mr. Duterte also said that one of the reasons why he ordered the cancellation of the VFA is the USA’s intrusion into local politics, particularly a provision in the 2020 US National Budget prohibiting Philippine officials allegedly responsible for Senator Leila M. De Lima’s detention from entering the US.

The notice of termination for the military cooperation agreement was sent to the US Embassy in Manila on February 11.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. earlier said in a Senate hearing that ending the VFA would make other defense pacts inoperative.

Lawmakers are planning to question the President’s authority to order the termination without congressional concurrence. — Gillian M. Cortez