Senate, DFA meet in closed-door session over foreign policies

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2020 09:32 PM

MANILA - Foreign affairs officials on Friday met with senators in a private online meeting to discuss the country’s foreign policies towards the United States and China.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. gave a briefing on the “effect of these policies in the conduct of the affairs of the Philippines,” according to information on the Senate’s website.

“It was an executive session. Lasted around or more than 3 hours. That’s all I can reveal,” Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chair Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

In 2016, Manila began to turn away from its traditional ally Washington after then-US President Barack Obama criticized Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Duterte forged closer ties with China - the world’s second largest economy, which has been encroaching on shoals within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea - as he sought for funding for his administration’s massive infrastructure program.

Earlier this year, Duterte ordered the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) - a military accord between Manila and Washington - after the United States canceled the 10-year visa of his close ally Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa.

In June, Duterte suspended the cancellation of the VFA citing “superpower tensions” in the region.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Senate’s meeting also comes a day after the European Parliament threatened to revoke tariff incentives for the Philippines over the alleged human rights abuses and the "deteriorating level of press freedom” in the country.

Pimentel did not say whether the concerns of the European Parliament were brought up in their meeting with the DFA.