MANILA -- The Philippines, on its own, can initiate the proceedings on the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
"The termination of the VFA may be unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, and it is well within the right of the Philippine government to do so if it determines that the agreement no longer redounds to our national interest," Lorenzana said in a message to reporters late Friday.
He said the termination also does not need the approval of the Philippine Congress.
"All that is required is that a notice of termination be served to the US government. The termination shall take effect 180 days after the date of the notice," Lorenzana added.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin asked Lorenzana to start the termination process of the country's VFA with Washington DC upon the order of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"While maintaining constant consultations with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, I will discuss with the President the various scenarios concerning the possible termination of the VFA and what future actions may be undertaken by the DND and AFP(Armed Forces of the Philippines) regarding this matter," Lorenzana said.
Duterte threatened to terminate the accord with the US after the latter canceled the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the former Philippine National Police chief who implemented the administration's crackdown on illegal drugs.
The government's campaign against narcotics had been criticized by the US, with some American lawmakers introducing a Senate resolution castigating the Duterte administration for the deaths related to the program and calling for the release of Senator Leila de Lima who is currently detained on drug charges.
Manila and Washington DC signed the VFA in 1998, which gives clear instructions on how visiting American troops should be treated in the Philippines.
Under the agreement, US forces are not subject to passport and visa regulations when entering and leaving the Philippines. Their permits and licenses are also deemed valid in the Philippines. (PNA)