Malacañang on Thursday, February 13, defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to terminate the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, saying the Philippines cannot forever rely on the protection its counterpart.

“As the president said, if we keep on relying on the United States on our defense, our defenses will always remain stagnant or weak. We have to strengthen our own defense,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

“We cannot be forever relying on the Americans for our defenses,” he added.

Malacañang announced on Tuesday, February 11 that the Philippines has formally sent a notice terminating the VFA with the U.S.

Duterte ordered the termination after the government has canceled the visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who spearheaded Duterte’s war on drugs during his stint as police chief.

U.S. President Donald Trump, for his part, said he was “fine” with Duterte’s directive.

“I really don’t mind.  If they would like to do that, that’s fine.Â  We’ll save a lot of money,” he said Wednesday.

“You know, my views are different than other people. I view it as, ‘Thank you very much. We save a lot of money,’” he added.

Trump also touted his good relationship with the Philippine president.

“And my relationship, as you know, is a very good one with their leader”  And we’ll see what happens. They’ll have to tell me that” he said.

The VFA, which came into force in 1999, covers the conduct of U.S. soldiers in the Philippines. It can be terminated through a written notice from either of the countries, taking effect 180 days after the notification.

Among the provisions of the deal include lax visa and passport policies for U.S. troops, and the rights of the U.S. government to retain its jurisdiction over its military personnel when they commit crimes in the Philippines. 

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