Duterte orders VFA termination

Panelo: The President has ordered the start of the process ending the VFA.

MANILA – Proving to one and all his threat to cancel the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States as no “childish bluff,” President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the start of the process of ending or terminating the military agreement signed by the two countries three years ago.

This, as relations between the Philippines and US have turned “lukewarm” after US voided the visa of Sen. Bato dela Rosa who is allegedly involved in Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs being a former PNP chief.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the VFA cancellation process has already been officially ordered by the president and will no longer wait until US responds to the President’s one-month grace period for Washington to reverse the visa cancellation of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

“Apparently hindi na nasunod kasi tinanong ko siya kagabi (it was not followed because I asked him last night), when will the process start? [he said], ‘Tonight,’” Panelo said.

“The process of starting it has commenced or will commence today,” he added, noting he has already relayed the order to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr.

The spokesman said Locsin, who is scheduled to go to the US soon, has already convened a committee to start the process of terminating the VFA.

“So, according to Secretary Locsin he’s supposed to be departing anytime a few hours from now to the US. But he said he has already called the committee to start the process and he has even already informed, I think, if I’m not mistaken, the Senate, about it,” he said.

Panelo also added that the Chief Executive’s decision was based on the accumulation of the US’ alleged intrusion into Philippine sovereignty, particularly on their lawmakers’ call to release Sen. Leila de Lima.

On his Twitter account, Locsin posted that he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana were involved in the process “by first contacting the Senate because it is a treaty on our side [and] an executive agreement on the US side.”

The Foreign Affairs Secretary is the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces while Lorenzana serves as its vice chairman.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim has already sought a meeting with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea either on Friday or Saturday to discuss the development Panelo said.

The VFA was signed in 1998. It accorded legal status to thousands of U.S. troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.

One provision of VFA says that the pact will remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement.

Panelo said it was still unclear whether Duterte could unilaterally terminate the VFA without the concurrence of Congress. (IAMIGO)

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