President has sole power to craft foreign policy-Duterte

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DAVAO CITY — Contrary to the claim of Senator Panfilo Lacson that the Senate has a hand in crafting foreign policy, President Rodrigo Duterte has fended off criticisms saying neither the vice president nor senators have function in deals such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) arguing only the president has the sole power under the Constitution to set the country’s foreign relations strategy.

“Ito naman si Robredo abogado, I can forgive Lacson because he is not — na they should look at the Constitution,” President Duterte said in a public address. “The Constitution of the Philippines provides that the foreign relations or foreign policy is vested in the president alone.”

“Siya ‘yong kaisa-isang — well, I happened to be there — Kung ano ang policy gusto niyang ipalabas for the Philippines is vested in the president and not with the senators or the vice president.”

President Duterte warned the vice president before issuing statements, saying Robredo, being a lawyer, should know the provisions of the Constitution on the President’s functions.

The President earlier said the US government must pay if it wanted to keep the VFA. The VFA, signed in 1998, allows temporary stay of US troops during joint military exercises with Filipino soldiers as well as during times of humanitarian missions.

Although the President ordered the VFA’s abrogation last year, it was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic and heightened regional tensions.

The President said that seeking payments from the Americans is justified since hosting US forces and armaments in the country exposes it from attacks from the US’s adversaries.

“The meltdown will start in Palawan. It’s the province that’s facing the Spratly and everything there,” he said. “Kaya hindi mo lang alam, in a worst-case scenario, kung may isang g*** diyan na magpaputok ng isang rocket, gulo na iyan. And the Philippines invariably would be drawn into the vortex of a conflict that is called war.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who joined Monday’s meeting with the President, said that under international law, a state can incur state responsibility if it allows another country to use its territory especially if it entails possible damage or harm.

Roque said he explained during a press briefing the country’s independent foreign policy, with the Philippines forging friendly relations even with its non-traditional partners.

In addition, recent studies show that the country is getting measly amount from the US despite the Philippines being America’s unsinkable warship in Asia.

Comparing the country with Pakistan, Roque said recent data show the Philippines just receives $3 billion in counter-terrorism support from the United States.

“Ikukumpara po natin ‘to sa bansa na gaya ng Pakistan. Ang Pakistan po, $13.6 billion ang naibigay ng mga Amerikano. Ikumpara po natin sa Turkey, ganoon din po. Halos limang beses ang binibigay nila para manatili ‘yong kanilang mga sundalo at ang mga militar sa kanilang bansa,” Roque explained.

He said it is fair that the country receives much higher amount from the US particularly in the midst of its fight against COVID-19 to fund its Universal Health Care, free irrigation for farmers, and free education for Filipino students.

“Hindi po masama na humanap tayo ng alternatibong mga pagkukunan ng pondo para po gastusin sa pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan. At hindi po ‘yan extortion. That is advancing the national interest,” he added.

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