MANILA (Manila Times) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday barred members of his Cabinet from travelling to the United States as he reiterated his order to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and its longtime ally.
Duterte made the statement as he announced his decision to skip the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Las Vegas, Nevada for “strategic and geopolitical considerations.”
“I will not allow any Cabinet member to go there at this time. No Cabinet member should be allowed to go to the United States,” Duterte told reporters.
“Indefinitely. So that we limit our contact in whatever aspect of international relations would be discussed or subject to laws,” he added.
The President also stressed that he was now slowly “toning down” the relations between the Philippines and the US after he ordered the termination of the VFA following the cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
“[It’s] terminated. You know there is a procedure. When you say that I want this terminated, in that agreement or whatever, there are always rules to follow. The winding up, to return the properties used during the life of the contract until it was revoked. I’m just toning it down,” Duterte said.
The President also said he might not send in a proxy to the leaders’ summit scheduled this March in Las Vegas.
US President Donald Trump invited Duterte and nine other Asean leaders to visit Las Vegas for the US-Asean summit on March 14.
The invitations were first conveyed during the Asean-US meeting at the 35th Asean Summit in Bangkok last November, and was reiterated through a letter dated January 9.