De Lima: Duterte changing PH foreign policy to serve his ego
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima again denounced President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, December 18, slamming his threats to make "drastic changes" to the country's foreign policy.
De Lima, in particular, warned that Duterte's plan to revoke the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States should be thoroughly studied first.
Last Friday, December 16, Duterte had said the US should "prepare for the eventual repeal" of the VFA, but also added that he would adopt a wait-and-see attitude out of respect for US President-elect Donald Trump.
"It should not be decided precipitously or carelessly without any clear alternatives, precisely because of what the President calls 'the changing politics' in the West Philippine Sea," De Lima said in a statement.
"He might be throwing us out of the pan and into the fire. There is so much at stake here – the Filipino people's lives, well-being, security, and even our very sovereignty. I hope he doesn't sacrifice those interests as easily as he sacrifices the lives of the people who are being killed on a daily basis because of his so-called 'war on drugs.'"
The VFA, which took effect in 1999, outlined guidelines for the conduct of American troops visiting the Philippines. The agreement is the foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the US, some of which the Duterte administration has already stopped.
After his threat about the VFA, Duterte had also slammed the US for treating the Philippines like a "doormat."
To that, De Lima said, "If imploring our government to respect the rule of law and uphold the human rights and civil liberties of its people is treating the Philippines like a doormat – I would welcome that over our own so-called leaders treating us like bugs to be crushed."
Duterte has maintained that the country would be pursuing an "independent" foreign policy. In his first few months in office, he has repeatedly lashed out at the Philippines' longtime ally, the US, while taking a warm tone toward China and Russia.
"I hope that he understands the difference between the Philippines pursuing an independent foreign policy, and the Philippines being forced to reformulate its foreign policy in order to serve the President's ego and accommodate his need to throw a tantrum whenever he doesn't get his way. The first serves the nation's interest. The latter does not," said De Lima.
"He should really stop turning foreign relations and diplomacy into a grudge match, where the Filipino's welfare is just a pawn for him to sacrifice." – Rappler.com