Chief presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo expressed optimism that the Philippines can and will survive without the United States.
Panelo made the remark following President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States of America, putting an end to a 20-year solid partnership and military cooperation.
In an interview with CNN Philippines early Friday morning, on whether the country can stand on its own, after President Duterte decided to abrogate the agreement, Panelo’s retort was a quick affirmation.
“Oo (Yes). We will survive eventually,” Panelo said.
“Palagi nagsu-survive at lalo pang gumaganda nga ang buhay natin eh (We always survive and our lives even become better),” he added.
Panelo said even though the cancellation of the VFA will have an impact, particularly on the granting of military aid/grants to the country, and especially the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other relevant agencies/organization.
“Of course, there is because we have relied on them from the very beginning. It’s like the military bases agreement. A lot that has been said against it, all the gloom scenarios, but did something happen? None. It’s just like that!),” Panelo said.
Panelo acknowledged there will be repercussions but emphasized it is high time for the country to stand on its own.
“If in the past they give us grants, maybe this time not anymore. But just like the President stated that’s okay for us as long as we stand on our own and no longer rely on any other country),” he added.
In the same interview, Panelo reiterated the President was serious when he mentioned he will not change his mind when it comes to the VFA’s termination as part of government’s new foreign policy.
“It’s gone. Forget about it. His position will be unchanged until the last day of his term,” Panelo said.
“The President says, this is a new foreign policy. And the foreign policy is: Friends to all, enemies to none. And he says foreign policy will be based solely on our national interest and general welfare of the people,” he added.
With a new foreign policy in place, Panelo also did not discount the possibility that other agreements and treaties signed by the Philippines and US will also be affected.
“That’s how it’s going to be, probably, they will be affected,” Panelo said.
He likewise said the President may forgo alliances with other countries, including China: “The commander in chief wants the country to be independent.”
“If that is the position of the President that he doesn’t need alliances with others, and for us to stand on our own, of course, all these may be gone),” Panelo said.
“It’s not shifting alliances, we are removing our alliances. We are on our own).”