“The door is not totally shut to the United States,” says Philippine envoy to Washington
MANILA – While the Philippine government has served its notice terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) last Tuesday, February 11, Ambassador Jose Manuel Del Gallego Romualdez said the door is not totally shut to the United States.
Speaking at a forum sponsored by Stratbase ADR Institute this morning at the Makati Diamond Residences, Ambassador Romualdez said they have already informed the White House, the State Department and the US Senate of President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision upon instructions of President Rodrigo Duterte over two weeks ago.
“I met with the President upon my arrival and my mission was to try to convince him to attend the US-ASEAN Summit scheduled in Las Vegas as it is a very good meeting but he said he needed to consult some people, some of his advisers, especially people in national security and other officials from the military,” Ambassador Romualdez said.
He added immediately after the President announced the termination of the VFA, he and colleagues were surprised.
Ambassador Romualdez said the government is currently in the process of trying to find ways and means to be able to see how we can come up with something similar (to the VFA).
He recalled his meeting with then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, whose visa was cancelled by the United States in 1986 for his alleged participation in several coup attempts against sitting President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino during the late 80s who claimed he has no love lost with the United States of America. Mr. Enrile is very well in his 90s.
Ambassador Romualdez said Senator Enrile said nobody can simply ignore the United States of America where a special relationship with the Philippines still exists.
“So with that in mind, we continue to forge ahead the kind of relationship but bear in mind the VFA is not really the end all and be all of US-PH relations. I think there are many other relationships that we can work on outside the Visiting Forces Agreement,” he explained.
“The door is not totally shut to the United States but again the bottom line always falls on sovereignty,” he further said.
The VFA is very ticklish and very sensitive issue for both countries, according to the current Ambassador to Washington as he mentioned the assistance extended by the American government during the Marawi Siege (in May 23,2017)
He sounded optimistic the military exercises would continue within the next three months.
“It is unfortunate that the President decided not to attend the US-ASEAN Summit as it is an important opportunity for him to have a face to face meeting with US President Donald Trump to be able to discuss further but he has opted not to attend,” Ambassador Romualdez explained.
Referring to the abrogation of the Military Bases Agreement in 1991, Ambassador Romualdez said the United States was “extreme disappointed with us,” underscoring the need to further strengthen the relationship with the United States. (Melo M. Acuña)