Duterte seeks public opinion on VFA
Apart from asking for the public’s opinion on the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, President Duterte is also considering the views of the military in deciding the fate of the suspended 1999 pact, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Thursday.
“Important is [the] sense of the military from whose chiefs Cabinet gets a sense of hostility because of shabby treatment in among other things military exercises where, officers complain, they just drool looking at—maybe handling even—but never getting to keep superior weaponry,” Locsin said in a post on Twitter.
Locsin posted the remark after Mr. Duterte, at a televised public briefing, said he wanted the public’s opinion on the VFA which he suspended last year.
“[The President] is a populist so it makes sense to get a sense of the public regarding VFA. Not the sense of self-important people but common folk who, however, must at least take the trouble to call 8888 & not just answer surveys,” Locsin said.
Locsin earlier confirmed that representatives of the Philippines and the United States were holding closed-door discussions on the VFA. The President ordered the termination of the agreement in February 2020 as he actively cultivated a new diplomatic policy of engagement with China and Russia. But the termination had been suspended twice because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Malacañang said on Thursday that the President wanted Filipinos to understand the possible consequences of keeping the VFA, particularly amid the increasing hostility of the United States toward China.
“If America engages in war with its enemies, it’s certain that Filipinos will be the first to die if they (Americans) are here in the Philippines,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at an online Palace briefing.
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