Duterte can scrap PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement without Senate approval – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020   •   873

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte can terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) even without the concurrence of the Senate, Malacañang said on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after the president threatened to scrap the VFA if the US government does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

“Because it (VFA) is an executive agreement so he can cancel it without the approval of the Senate,” Panelo said.

Dela Rosa on Wednesday confirmed to media that he is not allowed to travel to the US for now after he received notification about his visa cancellation.

The senator said the exact reason on why his US visa was cancelled remains unclear but he heard reports it might be linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that he spearheaded when he was the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 2016 to 2018.

The VFA, signed by Manila and Washington in 1998, is a bilateral deal which outlines the guidelines for the conduct of government troops when they are visiting the US or the Philippines.

Panelo said the US government should not intervene with the Philippines’ internal issues.

The Palace official also believes the president’s threat to cancel the VFA will not affect Filipino workers in the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

U.S. withdrawal from WHO undermines global anti-pandemic cooperation efforts: officials

UNTV News   •   July 10, 2020

The international community has criticized the U.S. decision to quit the World Health Organization (WHO), saying the move has posed negative influences on its own anti-pandemic efforts and also global cooperation.

The United States on Tuesday officially submitted its notification of withdrawal from the WHO to the UN secretary-general, following an announcement made in May. The move came amid a rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the Americas over the past week.

The administration’s move to formally withdraw from WHO is short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous, CEO of the United Nations Foundation Elizabeth Cousens said in a statement.

She said the WHO is the only body able to lead and coordinate the global response to COVID-19 and terminating the relationship undermines the global effort to beat this virus.

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said the “U.S. withdrawal from the WHO is a setback for international cooperation,” and called for global coordination which is necessary for fighting the pandemic.

“The U.S. withdrawal from WHO is a mistake. It is the public health authority for the world’s poorest and many will now see the U.S. as less reliable, diminishing its influence,” tweeted Tom Tugendhat, a UK Conservative Member of Parliament and also chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza made comments saying that the U.S. withdrawal decision is “serious and wrong”.

With regard to the U.S. move of pulling out from international organizations and treaties, Pascal Boniface, Founder and Director of French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), said its unilateralism inclination sabotages the current international mechanism.

“The move of withdrawing from international organizations has become a customary gimmick by the U.S. government. The U.S. pulled out from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Paris Agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty,” he said.

“We can say that the U.S. withdrawal from the WHO has reflected the overall attitude of the government, which broke the current international mechanism and multilateralism. It is to pursue unilateralism,” he added. (Reuters)

U.S. envoy Biegun meets Seoul’s top security adviser to discuss North Korea

UNTV News   •   July 9, 2020

United States Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun held a meeting with South Korea’s top security adviser on Thursday (July 9) before heading off to Japan in a trip overshadowed by stalled denuclearisation talks with North Korea.

According to Seoul’s presidential office, Biegun met with Suh Hoon, a former spy chief, and discussed the North’s recent movement and ways to foster peace on the Korean peninsula. Suh said he “highly appreciated” the U.S. envoy’s efforts to resume talks with North Korea.

North Korea has said it has no intention of sitting down again with the United States, though U.S. President Donald Trump said this week he would be open to another summit with leader Kim Jong Un. (Reuters)

(Production: Minwoo Park)

Duterte on reopening the economy: ‘We cannot afford to gamble’

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The country is not yet ready to fully reopen its economy, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Chief Executive said the government is doing the process gradually, otherwise the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections would spike that could lead to a bigger problem.

He said he cannot follow the example of other countries because the Philippines does not have as much resources if the situation gets worse.

“Tayong pobre we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. Mahirap tayo. Hindi tayo puwedeng sumugal (As a poor country, we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. We are poor. We cannot afford to gamble),” the President said during his public address on Tuesday evening (July 7).

President Duterte cited situations in the United States and Brazil where despite being powerful and wealthy, are not spared from the impact of the pandemic.

“Although they opened their economy for money to come into the government coffers, there was a spike. They were having a problem of almost a relapse — in the totality of the number,” he added.

Meanwhile, the President expressed doubts that the country has entered the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak.

“Now we do not even know if the number of 34, 178 of active cases is still a part of the first wave or have we arrived at the second wave. I don’t think so. We are still grappling with the first wave,” he argued.

He urged Filipinos to obey strict health protocols and have more patience as the government works to combat the pandemic.

Mga kababayan ko, ako mismo gusto ko nang lumabas. Ayoko nang magpapigil. Kung gusto ko nga makipag-away na ako. Ang problema iyon ang gusto ko, pero ang gusto ko ay hindi makakabuti sa ating lahat,” he said.

(My fellow countrymen, I personally I want to go out. I don’t want to be barred from doing so. I am even ready to fight over this. The problem is, what I want is not good for everyone.)

“We have to be very circumspect in reopening the economy. Dahan-dahan lang (Let’s do it gradually), because if you open the entire Philippines and thousands upon thousands of new cases would happen, then we are in deep s***. Talagang mahirapan tayo (We will seriously struggle),” he said. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

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