AFTER President Rodrigo Duterte demanded that the United States pay for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Malacañang said that the Philippines should get “something like $16 billion or close to that amount” from the U.S.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque pointed out how little the U.S. has provided in terms of military assistance to the Philippines from 2002 to 2017.
Citing a study by Washington-based Stimson Center on counterterrorism spending, Roque said the Philippines only received $3.9 billion for counterterrorism efforts compared to Pakistan’s $16.4 billion.
“When did Pakistan become an ally of America? They do not have a basis to say that they have a longstanding relationship with America unlike the Filipinos who died in the Death March during World War II,” he said on Monday, February 15.
Roque also cited the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a 2014 deal that gave American soldiers access to the Philippines’ military establishments.
“But how much are we getting for this? According to the study, we got $3.9 billion. Is this a big amount? It is loose change when compared to what other countries got,” he said.
The spokesman continued: “Pakistan got $16 billion, we think we should get something similar or close to that amount. But definitely, not the amount we are currently getting.”
According to Roque, the amount is based on the “historically very strong ties” between the Philippines and the U.S.
“We are basing it on the fact that we have had historically very strong ties and if you have very strong ties with a very strong ally, then I think it also comes with a higher amount of financial assistance to be given,” he explained.
If the U.S. refuses to pay, then the VFA termination will proceed as scheduled, Roque said.
“I think the president has been clear, he wants compensation. If the Americans don’t agree, then there is also the previous declaration of the Filipino president that he will terminate the VFA,” he stressed.
Duterte, on February 12, said before the troops at Clark Air Base in Pampanga: “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.”
“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, has provisions including lax 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.
Last February, 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.