MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang supports the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to bar members of his Cabinet from any travel to the United States.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the boycott was solely because of the cancellation of Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s US visa.
“(The) boycott is more of a protest (for what they did). Sa ginagawa nila sa mga kababayan natin (For what they did to our fellowmen),” he said.
“Dapat naman huwag nang pumunta roon. Kinakansela nila ang sa kasama nating senador. Sabi niya boycott tayo (Do not go there because they canceled (the visa) of one of our senators. He said, let’s boycott (them),” he added.
But Senator Panfilo Lacson expressed concern that the decision may have a negative impact on the country’s economy and security, as well as on Filipino citizens in the US.
“An indefinite travel ban to the United States imposed on all members of the Cabinet could have adverse consequences on our country’s economy and security, not to mention the many employed Filipino immigrants there, especially if the US retaliates to the recent tirades of President Duterte,” Lacson said.
Lacson hopes someone from the Cabinet to reach out to the President and convince him to reverse his decision, to which Panelo said, “He (Lacson) is entitled to his opinion. But I don’t think so.”
Panelo added that President Duterte is determined to cancel the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the US and the Philippines, and his decision is final.
The Palace spokesperson clarified, however, that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) needs to submit a draft agreement to the US government to finalize and formalize the termination.
Even so, Panelo assured that the termination of the VFA will not affect the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries.
The official also maintains that China and Russia have nothing to do with the severing of ties between the Philippines and the US.
“You know, it’s about time that we, as a country, rely on our own resources. We cannot be relying on others. We have to strengthen our capability in defending ourselves,” he concluded. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)