If the Philippines is incapable of defending itself from terrorism and extremist groups, it might as well choose to become a territory of the United States or a province of China.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night made this pronouncement as he defended his decision to abrogate the country’s 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement with Washington, saying the Philippines has no business of becoming a republic if it cannot address problems on its own.
“If we are incapable of doing it, we have no business being a republic. You might as well choose. We can be a territory of the Americans or we can be a province of China,” the commander-in-chief said in a speech in Malacañang.
He also said the military and the police had assured him that the government can combat the enemies of the state even without the “sophisticated intelligence” of the US.
“Do we need America to survive as a nation? Do we need America now to fight a rebellion in our entire country? Do we need their arms?” he asked.
President Duterte also said terminating the country’s military pact was not a knee-jerk response to the visa’s cancellation of his ally Senator Ronald dela Rosa as alleged by critics.
On Feb. 11, the Philippines sent Washington a notice to terminate the VFA after the US had canceled the visa of Dela Rosa, Duterte’s former drug war chief.
Defenders of the decades-old agreement say ending it could both degrade the Philippines’ ability to defend itself and undermine Washington’s moves against Beijing’s rise, particularly in the disputed South China Sea.
Senators have vowed to file a petition before the Supreme Court questioning Duterte’s right to terminate the military pact without the legislature’s approval.
The VFA, which took effect in 1999, outlined the guidelines for the conduct of American military troops in the Philippines.
READ: With or without VFA, Pinoys can live—Koko
It was the foundation of military exercises between the two countries, and the affirmation of the obligations under the 69-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty. The MDT states that Manila and Washington would come to each other’s defense in case of an attack by a foreign state.
Duterte also reiterated that he will not go to the US despite the invitation of American President Donald Trump to Southeast Asian leaders to meet next month in Las Vegas.
The United States began sounding out Southeast Asian leaders about visiting Washington after Chile canceled a Pacific Rim summit scheduled for November in the wake of major demonstrations.
Trump had likewise skipped an ASEAN summit and parallel East Asia Summit last year in Bangkok.
The US Embassy in Manila, meanwhile, reported that members of the special forces from the United States and the Philippines conducted joint training in Palawan from January to February to develop counterterrorism tactics and skills.
“Training not only focused on tactical skills but also stressed the importance of local community support and outreach as part of a holistic counterterrorism strategy,” the US embassy said, in a statement.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said some members of the President’s Cabinet had misgivings about the termination of the VFA but were scared to voice them out.
He added that the Cabinet members were convinced the President has already made up his mind.
Lacson shrugged off the assurance by the military and police that the Philippines can boost its defense capabilities despite the termination of the VFA.
Lacson, a former police chief, said severing times with US troops would also affect the maintenance of the country’s military equipment.
“’The tangible and intangible benefits we were getting from the VFA were so huge. The Philippine Air Force alone, in the Armed Forces, the air assets we’re getting, if the VFA was cut, many will be affected because most of our equipment came from United States and we cannot change that anymore,” he said.
READ: Locsin warns vs. VFA termination, pushes reviewREAD: VFA sparks confusion at PalaceREAD: DOJ-led unit to assess VFA termination
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.