US President Donald Trump admitted that he does not mind the Philippines ending the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to end the defense pact was a “move in the wrong direction.”
Trump, however, saw this move of Duterte differently. “I never minded that very much, to be honest. We helped the Philippines very much,” Trump said on Wednesday.
Trump noted that the US helped the Philippines in its campaign against ISIS-inspired insurgents, the Maute group, in Marawi City in 2017, Trump said the two countries have a “very good relationship there.”
“But I — I really don’t mind. If they would like to do that, that’s fine. We’ll save a lot of money,” Trump said.
“You know, my views are different than other people. I view it as, ‘Thank you very much. We save a lot of money,'” he added.
Trump also noted that the United States still has a good relationship with the Philippines, despite Duterte ending the military pact. “And my relationship, as you know, is a very good one with their leader. And we’ll see what happens. They’ll have to tell me that,” Trump said.
US Defense Secretary said that the comments made by Trump gave the wrong message to China. “As we try and bolster our presence and compete with (China) in this era of great power competition, I think it’s a move in the wrong direction for the longstanding relationship we’ve had with the Philippines for their strategic location, the ties between our peoples, our countries,” Esper said.
Despite this, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the termination is a “move in the right direction” and should have been done a long time ago.
“Our studied action is consistent and pursuant to our chartering an independent foreign policy, with our foreign relations anchored solely on national interest and the general welfare of our people,” Panelo said.