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Duterte ‘not joking’ about ending VFA, bars Cabinet execs from going to US

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday barred Cabinet members from making trips to the United States "indefinitely" as part of his policy of “toning down” relations with the superpower.

Duterte’s latest pronouncement comes days after he ordered the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and US.

“No Cabinet member should be allowed to go to the United States indefinitely, so that we limit our contact in whatever aspect of international relations [that] would be discussed or subject to talks,” he told reporters in Quezon City.

Asked if he is lessening the country’s engagement with the US, Duterte said, “I’m slowly toning it down.”

Duterte said his decision to abrogate the VFA was not made on a whim, adding that it stemmed from the attempt of US senators to ban the entry of Filipino officials linked to the arrest of opposition Senator Leila De Lima.

“I am terminating the VFA. I was not joking. The day I said it was the day that I decided it should be terminated,” he said.

The President last week warned to end the VFA, which governs the presence of American troops in the Philippines for military exercises, if the US would not correct the revocation of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa's visa.

Dela Rosa is the former chief implementer of the Philippines’ war on drugs having served as Duterte’s first Philippine National Police head. — BM, GMA News