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President Duterte said yesterday that he looks forward to the time when there will be no other military troops in the country except Filipino soldiers.
In a press briefing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport before flying to Japan for a three-day official visit, the Chief Executive said he is not keen on having a visiting forces pact with Japan.
“No. I don’t think so. I do not believe that we have a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan,” Duterte said when asked if the proposed Philippines-Japan VFA would be among the issues to be discussed when he meets with Japanese officials.
“To my mind, I maybe wrong, but I have yet to come across an agreement or a piece of paper which says that we are… in this arrangement of Japanese troops,” he added.
The President then invoked an article in the Constitution which mandates that the government of the Republic of the Philippines shall pursue an independent foreign policy.
“And to that extent, I would like to say this with all candor: I look forward for the time when I no longer see any military troops or soldiers in my country except the Filipino soldier,” he said.
The possibility of forging an agreement that would allow Japanese troops to refuel in the Philippines and hold joint exercises with their Filipino counterparts was first raised during a state visit of then President Aquino to Japan in June last year. That time, Aquino told Japanese officials that the Philippines was ready to begin talks with Japan on such an agreement.
The Philippines has visiting forces agreements with the United States and Australia, which allow bilateral military exercises with both countries.
In 2014, the Philippines also signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US. The agreement allows increased US military presence in the country on rotational basis, as well as giving American forces access to at least five Philippine military facilities.
Yesterday, the President hinted that the US could forget about the EDCA. “You have the EDCA. Well, forget it. If I stay here long enough,” Duterte said without elaborating.
“I do not want to see any military man of any other nation except the Filipino soldiers. Iyan lang ang gusto ko.
That’s the long and short of it. I want an independent policy that hindi ako pasunod-sunod maski kanino,” he said.
According to the President, the Philippines doesn’t need the presence of foreign troops, adding that “there’s not going to be any war in the future.”
“There will be no wars anymore. Sino ba ang magkipag-giyera sa atin? China? What will they get?” he said.
(ELENA L. ABEN)