By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Philippines Lifestyle

President Rodrigo Duterte should have made a diplomatic and statesmanlike approach in addressing the concerns regarding the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Sunday.

Lacson said Duterte’s way of making such pronouncements may have given an impression that the country is a “nation of extortionists.”

Addressing the military men in Clark Pampanga on Friday, Duterte said: “I’d like to put on notice– if there’s an American agent here– that from now on, you want the Visiting Forces Agreement done? You have to pay.”

The Senator pointed out that one cannot put a price tag on the value of VFA in the Philippines.

“The President may have used strong words to send his message across to the US.   But certainly, there is a more civil and statesmanlike manner to ask for compensation from a longtime ally using the usual diplomatic channels and still get the same desired results,” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense.

Lacson said in pursuing the nation’s interest, the government should ensure that the US holds up its end of the agreement, but diplomatic channels are the better route in accomplishing same results.

“At least give the other party an elbow room to save face instead of looking bullied and stripped of dignity,” Lacson said in a tweet on Saturday.

“It was in that context that I posted a tweet on the matter on Saturday. I decided to take it down after giving it a thought that the President’s intention was to get a fair shake of the agreement, only he could have said it in a more diplomatic way,” he explained.

“On crucial issues such as this, there should be no room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding moving forward,” Lacson added.

Earlier, Lacson said the Philippines need the agreement especially with recent Chinese aggressive moves into Philippine territories as well as the West Philippine Sea.

The lawmaker added the last thing the country should lose is the balance of power that its allies, including the US, “can provide to suit our national interest and territorial integrity.”

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