Duterte says Trump 'deserves to be re-elected' – Palace

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President Duterte was pleased with US President Donald Trump for "respecting" the Philippines's decision to terminate the VFA, his spokesman says (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 15) — President Rodrigo Duterte said US President Donald Trump "deserves" to be elected again for respecting the Philippines' decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two nations, his spokesman said.

"It is President Trump's circumspect and judicious reaction to the termination of the VFA that made [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] gave the following remarks: 'President Trump is a good president and he deserves to be re-elected," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement on Saturday.

Trump, who is gunning for a second term in the 2020 US Presidential polls, brushed off the end of the two-decade-long military pact between the US and the Philippines, saying it was "fine" because that way, his country would "save a lot of money."

Malacanang added that the President said he would have reacted the same way if he was in Trump's shoes while musing that Trump would have also ordered to end the agreement if he was the Philippines' leader.

However, Duterte in a previous speech revealed that Trump had attempted to "save" the agreement. He also called the US government rude for meddling in the country's affairs.

The VFA is the first of two agreements between Washington and Manila about the treatment of their troops when they are in the US or the Philippines.

The provisions of the 1998 deal include lax visa and passport policies for US troops, and rights of US government to retain jurisdiction over military personnel, among others.

Panelo reiterated that the President believes the Philippines should become self-reliant, at least in defense matters.

"As the President says in rationalising why we have [to] stand alone and depending on our own resources in fighting the enemies of the state: 'If not now, when?'," said Panelo.

Duterte pushed for the termination of the deal on February 11, despite opposition from lawmakers, who called for a review of the agreement instead.

He called to end the pact after the cancellation of Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa's US tourist visa. The Palace also cited the US government's move to ban entry to Filipino government officials who were involved in the "wrongful imprisonment" of detained Senator Leila de Lima. De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, has been in jail for illegal drug charges since February 24, 2017.

Duterte also urged his Cabinet members to boycott travel to the US in January, around the same time he decided to terminate the VFA.

On Friday, Panelo maintained that the President's stand on the VFA remains unwavering, adding that lawmakers should just forget about a possible review.

The expiration of the VFA will come 180 days from the formal notice of termination from either country, as stated in the agreement.