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Philippine military chief: We will live without VFA with US

Armed Forces chief of staff General Filemon Santos Jr. expressed confidence Wednesday that the Philippine military would survive even without the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.

The Philippines on Tuesday sent notice to the US that it was terminating the VFA. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. signed and sent the notice to the US Embassy in Manila on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We will support the President’s decision. That’s a political decision, we’ll support it and we will live without VFA," Santos told reporters after the Commission on Appointments confirmed him.

"We have lived before nung nawala ang bases agreement nung 1991 hanggang 1997. Wala namang nangyari sa atin,” he added.

Santos said the country now AFP had equipment and assets with which to defend the country.

“It’s not actually naman kawalan because as of now you could say we have already some equipment, we have planes, we have ships. ‘Yun ngang barko natin dinala sa Oman,” Santos said.

Santos said the military would continue building up its capability.

“You cannot say 100 percent syempre ‘di ba but kaya nga sabi ko kanina we will increase our engagement with other countries with joint exercise para sa inter-operability just like what we have with Japan, South Korea, especialy South Korea. ‘Yung mga fighter planes natin are coming from South Korea,” Santos said.

“We could defend, we will defend hanggang kamatayan,” he added.

For his part, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the country is ready for any threats against its territory.

“Should any country, however, threaten our territorial integrity and assault our sovereignty, we will rise by our own resources and valiantly defend our motherland the way our forefathers did during their time,” Panelo said Wednesday.

Panelo also said the decision to terminate the VFA was consistent with the government's independent foreign policy “anchored solely on national interest and the general welfare of our people.”

Meanwhile, when asked if there were military officials who do not agree with Duterte’s decision to terminate the VFA, Santos said some might have a different opinion as regards the pact but it didn’t mean they are disgruntled.

“We are all high morale... Lagi kang ina-appreciate ng Presidente. It’s their personal and sabi ko nga sa inyo sinong sundalo ngayon ang low morale, pakitanong nga isa isa. We are all loyal,” he said. — with Virgil Lopez/NB/RSJ, GMA News