Duterte’s ‘no vaccine, no VFA’ remark not a blackmail — Palace
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang denied on Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) if the US could not provide its COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines was a “blackmail,” adding that there is nothing wrong with the Chief Executive’s remarks.
“Unang una po, ang Presidente pa rin ang chief architect ng ating foreign policy so hindi po natin puwede ipagkait sa ating Pangulo ‘yung ganyang desisyon,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online briefing.
(First of all, the President is still the chief architect of our foreign policy so we cannot deny him that kind of decision.)
“Wala pong masama dyan, hindi po ‘yan blackmail. ‘Yan po ‘yung ibig sabihin ng independiyenteng panlabas na polisiya o independent foreign policy. Hindi po tayo sunud-sunuran. Hindi po tayo didiktahan ng kahit sino,” he added.
(There is nothing wrong with that, it’s not blackmailing. That’s what independent foreign policy means. We are not blind followers. We cannot be dictated by anyone.)
In a speech last Saturday, the President demanded at least 20 million doses of US-made COVID-19 vaccines to stop the termination of the VFA.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said there could have been a “more diplomatic” way of asking the US help to avail vaccines “without sounding like we are blackmailing our way into it.”
The senator also said Duterte’s warning could have limited the Philippines’ source of COVID-19 vaccines to those developed by China.
“Kailangan namin ng vaccine, may vaccine kayo, bigyan niyo kami. Kinakailangan niyo ang aming teritoryo para sa Visiting Forces Agreement, sige ibibigay namin ‘yan pero kung hindi niyo naman kami bibigyan ng bakuna edi doon kayo mag VFA sa mga bansang binigyan niyong una ng bakuna. Hindi ba tama lang naman ‘yan?” Roque said.
(We need a vaccine. You have a vaccine then you should give us some. You need our territory for the Visiting Forces Agreement, we will give that but if you don’t give us a vaccine then do your VFA in countries you first provided with vaccines. Isn’t that only right?)
The Philippine government, upon the instruction of Duterte, sent a notice to the U.S. embassy to terminate the VFA.
But the scrapping of VFA was shelved for six months in June. The six-month suspension ends this December.
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