An official on Friday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to maintain the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
“The President wants to feel the public pulse on the VFA. I think most Filipinos not only support the agreement but want the government to strengthen Philippine-US relations,” Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez said.
He made his statement even as Senator Panfilo Lacson said “There you go! Nobody has the monopoly of wisdom regardless of power and authority.”
He made the statement in reaction to Duterte’s statement that he now wanted “to hear the people” on the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Lacson said the best decisions were those made not out of hubris but the humility of listening to as many people and trying to get a bit of what they had to say.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the VFA that Malacañang should be prioritizing was the VFA that stood for Vaccine For All and not the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said diplomatic relations and economic pressures worked in different ways, achieving the same purpose.
Rodriguez, representative of Cagayan de Oro’s second district, said he was adding his and his constituents’ voice to the popular sentiment in support of forging closer ties with the US.
“Our people have a natural affinity with America, not only because of our decades of partnership but also because of our close cultural and social ties,” Rodriguez said.
“America is also home to millions of Filipinos.”
Rodriquez said Filipinos trusted America to honor its commitments to the Philippines, including those under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty.
He said despite the Duterte administration’s foreign policy pivot to China, Filipinos considered the US as a more reliable ally in all aspects of foreign relations.
“In contrast, they do not trust the Chinese, especially in the wake of their aggressive activities in the West Philippine Sea and inside our 200-mile exclusive economic zone, most of which Beijing illegally claims as part of its territorial waters,” Rodriguez said.
He also supported the President’s suggestion that the United States extend more military and economic assistance to the Philippines in the event the VFA was maintained.
“It’s a reasonable proposal. The President wants fair treatment, comparable to what America is giving its other allies in this part of the world,” he said.