Malacañang on Saturday maintained that there is an official order from President Rodrigo R. Duterte to send a formal notice to the United States (US) about the Philippines’ termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the latest statement after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana branded as “fake news” the President’s fresh directive.
Duterte has instructed Executive Secretary (ES) Salvador Medialdea to inform Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. of his latest order to notify the US about the revocation of the 22-year-old VFA, Panelo announced on Friday night.
In a text message on Saturday, Panelo said the Chief Executive personally told him about his latest decision.
“I was quoting PRRD (President Rodrigo R. Duterte) on what he told me,” he said.
Panelo also said there was “no inconsistency” in the President’s stance on the VFA.
He explained that Lorenzana only meant that Medialdea has yet to formally receive the Chief Executive’s instruction.
“What (Lorenzana) meant is ES has yet to receive the instruction. That is what ES also told me last night — that he has not received the instruction yet from PRRD. There is no inconsistency,” Panelo said. “If he (Duterte) has not given the instruction yet to ES, it does not mean the (information) I shared with media is untrue. It only means ES has not yet gotten the directive from PRRD.”
In a separate text message, Medialdea said he has yet to receive any instruction from Duterte to relay any message to Locsin.
The VFA, signed between Manila and Washington DC in February 1998, governs rules on the conduct of visit of US forces to the Philippines.
The agreement exempts American troops from visa regulations and authorizes them to use their permits and licenses in the Philippines.
Duterte was prompted to scrap the VFA after the US canceled the visa of his ally, Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
The deal will be deemed terminated 180 days after the Philippines issues formal notice to the US.
On Thursday, Locsin warned that the Philippines may suffer due to the termination of the VFA.
Saying that the President’s decision is “studied”, Panelo earlier bared that the Philippine government had already started the process of terminating the agreement. (PNA)