Mindanao Times

Trump action, tone for PH policy hailed


President Donald Trump’s approving remarks on the terminatio­n of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) connotes a positive tone for Manila’s pursuit of an independen­t foreign policy, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said Tuesday.

Trump previously said he was fine with the Philippine­s’ decision to rescind the VFA, saying this would save the US “a lot of money.”

“President Trump, being who he is and where he came from the business world, he sees that as something like ‘We would like to see the Philippine­s be a strong ally’ and as his policies show, that he likes to see other countries to take care of themselves,” Romualdez told reporters during a US-Philippine­s Society event in Makati City

For a country that has longed to be self-reliant, this is a “positive step”, he added.

“I think the comment of President Trump is a positive step. If we look at both leaders, they are similar in nature because President Duterte has always believed that it is time for us to have an independen­t foreign policy: ‘We have to be independen­t, we cannot depend on other nations to always take care of us.’”

He also took note of the assurances made by the US leader, saying “President Trump made it clear that we will help you if we can but if you want to do it on your own, we’re also there to help you.”

The VFA, establishe­d in 1999, provides a framework for defense forces cooperatio­n that allows joint exercises between the Philippine­s and the US. On February 11, Manila sent the notice of VFA terminatio­n to the US embassy in Manila.

Although the embassy described the move as a “serious step with significan­t implicatio­n for the US-Philippine­s alliance,” Romualdez assured the DFA will find ways to maintain the two nations’ vibrant relations.

“The relationsh­ip between the US and the Philippine­s is far more than the VFA and many other things. While it is an important document that covers our relationsh­ip with the US on a military-to-military basis, I think moving forward we will try to find ways to continue that relationsh­ip. On the diplomatic front, we will continue to engage with many of our friends in Washington DC,” he said.

Meanwhile, reitred US Ambassador and now president of the US-Philippine­s Society John Maisto also believes the longstandi­ng connection between Manila and Washington will endure.

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