PH now working on terminating PH-US VFA, says Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020   •   623

Philippine Marines rush to shore during an amphibious landing exercise with United States counterparts on a beach on the coast of the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales Province, northwest of Manila, Philippines, 09 May 2018. The Philippines-US Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) Military Exercise is on its 34th iteration, which is aimed to enhance interoperability between security forces of the two countries. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang confirmed Friday that the Philippines has started the process of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to end the deal if it does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president issued the termination order Thursday night despite giving a month for the US to restore the senator’s visa.

Panelo said the order has already been relayed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as well as Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

“I just talked with Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, and he said that he will start with the process and he called up already the vice chair and they talked, and Ambassador Romualdez has already been informed, I was also talking to him earlier,” he said.

In a tweet on Friday, Locsin confirmed he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have taken the first step in ending the 1998 deal with the US government.

Locsin sits as the chairperson of the Commission on Visiting Forces while Lorenzana serves as vice chairman.

“Del Lorenzana and I- as Vice and Chair of USVFA – are starting the process of terminating it by first contacting the Senate because it is a treaty on our side, an executive agreement on the US side. I’m leaving for Washington on a totally unrelated matter,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Lorenzana, for his part, refrained from commenting into Duterte’s latest pronouncement.

“Will study it first,” he said in a message to reporters. “No comment muna. Too soon to comment.”

The VFA is a bilateral accord between Washington and Manila that came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

The deal may be terminated by either of the two countries by writing to the other party signifying their intent to end the agreement. Its expiration will come 180 days from the date of notification. – RRD (with details from Correspondents Rosalie Coz & Lea Ylagan)

ABS-CBN ‘grateful, humbled’ by Duterte’s acceptance of apology

Robie de Guzman   •   February 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Broadcast network ABS-CBN Corporation on Thursday said it was “grateful and humbled” by President Rodrigo Duterte’s acceptance of its apology.

On Wednesday, Duterte accepted the apology of the network’s president and CEO Carlo Katigbak, and assured he will not interfere in the company’s application for franchise renewal to Congress.

“We are grateful and humbled by President Rodrigo Duterte’s acceptance of our apology,” the ABS-CBN said in a statement.

“ABS-CBN remains committed to becoming a better organization and to continue to provide more meaningful service to Filipinos,” it added.

Katigbak, during a Senate hearing on Monday, apologized to the president over the network’s failure to air his P2.6 million worth of political advertisements during the 2016 presidential elections, as well as the airing of former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s political ad against Duterte.

Duterte also said that instead of giving him refund, the ABS-CBN should just donate the amount of his unaired campaign advertisements to charity.

“We will coordinate with the President’s office as it relates to his guidance on donating the refund to a charitable institution,” the network said in response.

Duterte earlier said he will “leave to Congress” the issue on the network’s franchise renewal, and that he has not decided yet whether to sign into law the bill granting ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year license to operate.

Duterte eyes enhanced PH-ADB partnership for infra program

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2020

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte discusses matters with Asian Development Bank President Masatsugu Asakawa who paid a courtesy call on the President at the Department of Finance Building inside the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex in Manila on February 24, 2020. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte met with the new head of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for an enhanced collaboration in various areas in relation with the government’s development agenda, Malacañang said.

In a press statement, the Palace said that ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa on Monday paid a courtesy call on Duterte at the office of the Department of Finance (DOF) in Manila to tackle ways on improving the country’s relationship with the bank.

During the call, the President congratulated Asakawa for his election as new ADB president, and expressed his gratitude for the bank’s continued assistance in different government programs.

Asakawa became ADB’s 10th president in January.

“I would like to express my appreciation to ADB for its unremitting assistance to the Philippines,” Duterte told the ADB president.

The Palace said that during the meeting, the chief executive also called for the ADB’s “aggressive participation” in the Philippine government’s infrastructure program, and asked for its help to improve the government’s capacity to undertake public-private partnership (PPP) projects with increased private sector participation.

“We look forward to ADB’s enhanced support to our Build, Build, Build Program,” Duterte said.

Last December 2019, the DOF signed with the ADB three loan agreements amounting to $623 million in support of the government’s infrastructure push.

Duterte names Eric Distor as NBI officer-in-charge

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2020

The new officer-in-charge of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Eric Distor.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has designated a new officer-in-charge for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Malacañang said Wednesday.

Eric Distor, assistant director for Intelligence Service, was named NBI’s officer-in-charge following the retirement of director Dante Gierran, according to a memorandum released by the Palace on Wednesday.

The letter addressed to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was dated February 21 and signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

It states that Distor’s new work assignment took effect on February 23.

The Palace said he will temporarily lead the agency until a replacement is appointed or until otherwise directed by the Office.

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