IT is the “right timing” for the United States to pay the Philippines to maintain the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between them, Malacañang said Thursday, February 18.
“Tama po ang timing nang sinabi ni Presidente na they have to pay up now. Kasi nga po, nauna na iyong kaniyang desisyon na nais na niyang tumiwalag diyan sa VFA (It’s the right timing when the president said they have to pay up now. It’s because the President already decided that he wants VFA terminated),” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
He said the U.S. should accept President Rodrigo Duterte’s demand for payment now if it wants to save the VFA.
“Kung gusto nilang magpatuloy ang VFA, ngayon na po ang pagkakataon dahil kinakailangan ng bagong pirmahan. At siguro, pupuwedeng isama kung magkano ang ibabayad nila kung mayroon silang ibabayad (If they want VFA to continue, now is the chance because a new signing of the deal is needed. Perhaps, they can say how much they can give),” said Roque.
“Kung wala, okay lang din naman (If there’s none, that’s okay too),” he added.
On February 12, Duterte said the U.S. would have to “pay” to keep the VFA.
“I’d like to put on notice if there’s an American agent here. From now on, you want the Visiting Forces Agreement done? You have to pay,” he said, addressing the troops at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.
“It’s a shared responsibility but your share of responsibility does not come free because, after all, when the war breaks out, we all pay,” he added.
The VFA, which came into force in 1999, covers the conduct of U.S. soldiers in the Philippines.
Among the provisions of the deal include relaxed visa and passport policies for U.S. troops, and the rights of the U.S. government to retain its jurisdiction over its military personnel when they commit crimes in the Philippines.
In February 2020, the Philippines sent the U.S. a notice terminating the VFA reportedly after the U.S. canceled Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s visa.
The termination was later suspended in June “in light of political and other developments in the region,” and the suspension was extended in November for another six months to enable the Philippines and the U.S. to find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement on how to move forward in their mutual defense.