Contrary to insinuations that President Duterte will also be pivoting toward China for the country’s defense policies, Malacanang stressed that the Chief Executive will not entertain a joint military pact with Beijing after he junked the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.
Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman, said the President would rather that the country rely on its budget and capabilities in strengthening its military prowess than continue relying on foreign powers.
“Talagang desidido siya (Duterte) na tumayo na tayo sa ating kakayahan. If that will mean you will be spending more, then let’s spend more,” Panelo said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on Friday (February 21).
Panelo narrated that he asked if Duterte is looking at having a pact similar to the VFA with China or any other country, and the President answered “no”.
Manila has already informed Washington of its decision to end the 20-year VFA, which legalizes the presence of US troops on Philippine soil and the joint US-Philippines military exercises.
This was after Washington included in its 2020 budget law a provision that bans the entry of Philippine officials who had something to do with the incarceration of opposition Senator Leila de Lima.
Subsequently, the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa was scrapped.
But there is still a possibility that the Executive Branch’s move to end VFA without prior approval from the Senate could be questioned before the Supreme Court.
Panelo said for the President, the country’s only enemies are the terrorists and Moro rebels, which can be handled by the government troops. “Sabi niya ito lang ang kalaban natin. Kaya natin iyon dahil kung hindi natin kaya ito, wala tayong karapatan maging gobyerno.”