Duterte doesn’t ask us–Lorenzana
President Duterte has been issuing statements without consulting his Cabinet, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed yesterday.
Lorenzana made the inadvertent admission after Sen. Franklin Drilon asked him if the Philippines was really terminating joint military training exercises with the United States, during Lorenzana’s confirmation hearing at the bicameral Commission on Appointments yesterday.
Lorenzana gave a candid response: “Mr. Chair, I really don’t know because the President has been issuing statements without consulting the Cabinet.”
‘Honest and candid’
Drilon praised Lorenzana’s candor, saying “at least you’re honest and candid.”
As to whether the President would abrogate the treaties with the United States, including the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), Lorenzana said the agreements remained in the status quo.
“Mr. Chair, I specifically asked the President for guidance on that. I asked him to give guidance on the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement), the (deployment) of US troops to Mindanao, the exercises next year and Edca,” Lorenzana said at the hearing held at the Senate.
“He told me to present them during a Cabinet meeting next month, I think Nov. 4 or 7. I am actually preparing for this presentation because he said I would need the inputs from the Cabinet to make the decision. As of now, there is no decision to suspend training next year, the VFA is still on, everything here is going, sir,” he said.
The President has been adamant about pursuing an independent foreign policy, one veering away from close ally United States and turning toward neighbor China and Russia. He has also suggested buying military equipment from the latter two countries.
Translated from Mandarin
Lorenzana conceded yesterday that using equipment from China might prove challenging, especially if “manuals will have to be translated into English” from Mandarin.
“What he (President Duterte) said was we should look at what we need. Check it out. He did not say ‘go ahead and buy,’” Lorenzana said.
Under Drilon’s questioning, the defense secretary admitted that interoperability or compatibility with the military equipment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “would be an issue,” as most of the AFP’s equipment had come from the United States.
Small arms won’t be much of a problem, he said, but when it comes to “drones or ships, it will take a long time for us to adjust to this equipment.”
Asked about Lorenzana’s responses, Drilon said the President may find it useful to have more frequent talks with his Cabinet.
“Well, maybe, he feels that he does not need to consult the Cabinet and that is his prerogative. I would maybe suggest that more consultations be done,” Drilon told reporters in an interview.
As to his own stand on cutting ties with the United States, Drilon said the Philippines could pursue an independent foreign policy without letting go of its longtime partner.
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