Trump 'fine' with VFA termination? 'He deserves to be reelected,' says Duterte

For President Rodrigo Duterte, US President Donald Trump's nonchalant reaction to his decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) showed that Trump was a "good" leader who "deserves to be reelected."

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo shared Duterte's thoughts about Trump in a statement issued to reporters on Saturday night, February 15.

"It is President Trump’s circumspect and judicious reaction to the termination of the VFA that made  PRRD gave the following remarks: 'President Trump is a good President and he deserves to be reelected,'" Panelo said.

The US will hold its presidential election in November, with Trump gunning for reelection.

Trump on Wednesday, February 12, said that he was "fine" with the termination of the VFA, noting that Washington would "save a lot money" because of it.

Duterte said that if he were the US president, "he would have given the same reaction," according to Panelo.

"PRRD welcomes President Trump’s remarks and he is glad that the American President understands and respects his decision to end the Visiting Forces Agreement," the Palace official said.

"The President said that if President Trump were a Filipino and the Philippine president, given his character and principled stand on a matter of national interest, he (Trump) would have done exactly the same thing he (Duterte) had done," Panelo added.

This is not the first time Duterte likened himself to Trump. In 2016, Duterte said he was  "similar" to the US president as they "both like to curse."

Duterte had ordered the termination of the VFA after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, Duterte's first Philippine National Police chief known as the architect of his war on drugs. The Philippine leader had also previously expressed his desire to end the military agreement with the US.

The VFA, which took effect in 1999, outlined the guidelines for the conduct of American military troops in the Philippines. This is the foundation of military exercises between the two countries.

The agreement was an affirmation of the two countries' obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed in 1951. The MDT is a commitment to defend each other – in accordance with constitutional processes – in the event of an armed attack by a hostile party.

Top Philippine officials had advised against ending the VFA, as it could compromise Philippine security and its relations with other countries. Among the country’s most pressing security threats included terrorism and China's expansionist claims in the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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