No offer, no inquiry from US on Duterte's payment demand for VFA: Palace

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 16 2021 03:09 PM

No offer, no inquiry from US on Duterte's payment demand for VFA: Palace 1
Filipino soldiers disembark from the landing ship before they dock at Motiong Beach as part of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response scenario during the Philippines and United States annual Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) exercises in Casiguran, Philippines May 15, 2017. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters/File 

MANILA — The United States has yet to make any offer or inquiry on President Rodrigo Duterte's demand for Washington to "pay" for a troop deal with Manila, Malacañang said on Tuesday. 

Duterte on Friday said the US must "pay" if it wanted to keep its Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines. 

Asked what payment the President demanded, his spokesman Harry Roque said: “Payment is generic. It can be anything... Wala namang (there is nothing) specific.”

“If they (US) ask for what our demand is, we will give it. But right now, I think it’s premature because there’s no offer, there’s no inquiry so far,” he told reporters in a video call. 

US military aid for the Philippines amounts to "loose change" compared to other Asian countries, Roque said on Monday. 

He cited a study by the Washington-based Stimson Center, which showed the Philippines received $3.9 billion in US counter-terrorism support from 2002-2017, compared to the $16.4 billion for Pakistan over the same period. 

“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,” said the Palace spokesman. 
 
“For now, what the President wants is if you want to continue using our territory, we want just compensation for it— hindi barya, hindi bulok na mga equipment. Iyong mga dumating pong equipment, binili po natin iyan, hindi po iyan ibinigay,” added Roque. 
 
(We want just compensation for it—not loose change, not outdated equipment. The equipment that just arrived, we bought those; those were not given to us.)
 

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Duterte unilaterally canceled the VFA last year, in an angry response to the cancellation of the US visa of his close ally, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa. The withdrawal period has been twice extended, however, to create what Philippine officials have said is a window for better terms to be agreed on.

Defense officials from both countries are trying to salvage the VFA, which underpins the Mutual Defense Treaty and an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Duterte has threatened to scrap all of them.

The US embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In December, it said the Philippines got the most US military assistance in the Indo-Pacific region, having received P33 billion pesos worth of hardware.

Roque said Duterte was upholding the national interest and not committing extortion, as some critics, including Vice President Leni Robredo, have said. His demand was for compensation, because the rotating US troop presence put the Philippines at risk.

"It is not money I am asking for... we should be provided with arms and armaments that could place us at equal footing with countries at war with us," Duterte said in a late night-televised address.

— With a report from Reuters