MANILA – Malacañang on Monday expressed hope that the US government under President-elect Joe Biden will relax immigration policies that took the restrictive approach during the term of outgoing US President Donald Trump.
In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque was optimistic that the Democratic Biden presidency would deal fairly with undocumented Filipino workers in the US.
“Sana po matulungan yung mga Pilipino na naninirahan ngayon sa Estados Unidos na wala pa pong mga papel dahil ‘yan naman po yung isang major policy difference between a Republic and Democratic administration (I hope they help Filipinos living in the United States without papers because that’s one of the major policy differences between a Republic and Democratic administration),” he said.
Roque, however, said he does not expect any major changes in bilateral relations between the Philippines and US.
While Democrats like former US President Barack Obama have been critical of the administration’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, Roque said Duterte will avoid making judgements about Biden until he finally gets to work with him.
Biden served as Obama’s Vice President for two terms—2009-2017.
“Other than congratulating him, I think the President is keeping an open mind as he should. It will be a new start but we have no prejudgements as far as President-elect Biden is considered other than the position that we are able and willing to work with all leaders of the world,” he said.
Asked if Duterte had any intention to visit the US if invited by Biden, Roque said: “Let’s cross the bridge when we get there.”
“Pero wala po akong nakikitang dahilan para tanggihan po ‘yan (But I don’t see any reason to reject it),” he added.
Roque refused to comment on Biden’s win showing the fate of populist leaders like Trump.
“I think academics and political observers can answer that in treaties, but for me, what’s important is the vote happen considering that we have similar Constitutions that the voice of the majority of the people were heard and the next US president was given a popular mandate,” he said.
Meanwhile, Roque said he has no word on Duterte’s decision on the suspension of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which is expected to end next month.
“I would defer on this matter to the [Department of Foreign Affairs]. All I can say on the part of the President is what he has already said previously that he’s abrogating it but the abrogation is suspended for six months, extendible for another six months,” he said.
The VFA, a military pact signed between the Philippines and the US in 1998, allows American troops who are participating in joint military exercises to visit Manila without passport and visa.
In February, Duterte scrapped the VFA over its alleged inequities in its treaty provisions and the US’s alleged assault on the country’s sovereignty and disrespect for its judicial system.
He later decided to suspend the planned revocation of the military pact with Washington DC last June. Azer Parrocha / PNA – northboundasia.com