MANILA — The United States' response to President Rodrigo Duterte's demand for payment for a troop deal might satisfy his concern on the modernization of the Philippine military, his envoy said on Friday,
Last month, the President told Washington to "pay," without specifying what, if it wanted to keep its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Manila.
The Pentagon has sent a “long” list of its aid to the Philippines in the past 5 years, said Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez.
“Mukhang sapat naman sa lahat ng mga hinihingi natin, mukhang kumpleto naman at marami pang dadating na mga kailangan nating armas or whatever hardware the we need from the United States,” he said of the list in a televised public briefing.
(It appears that it's enough for what we are asking, and many more weapons or whatever hardware the we need from the United States will arrive.)
Romualdez said he hoped Duterte had seen Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's copy of the list.
“That will probably satisfy the President’s concern regarding itong pag-modernize nitong ating (the modernization of our) Armed Forces,” he said.
“I think whatever issues na ilabas man natin (that we put out), the United States is prepared to see what they can do,” added the ambassador.
Manila and Washington will mark this year the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations, said Romualdez.
“I am confident na maski anong mangyari, importante itong relasyon natin sa Amerika (whatever happens, our relationship with America is important), at I think we will continue to have good relations with this country and solve all of these problems in a way that is mutually beneficial to all of us,” he said.
Last week, Duterte said he had yet to decide whether to scrap or renew the VFA, and that he wanted to "hear the people" on the pact that allows the presence of US military forces in the Philippines in a visiting capacity.
Duterte unilaterally cancelled the two-decade-old 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.
Before Duterte's payment demand, Philippine and US officials had met to settle differences over the VFA, which governs the conduct of American troops while in the country.
The meeting is the first under the administration of US President Joe Biden, which has reaffirmed the alliance in the face of China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Beijing has refused to recognize a ruling that junked its sweeping claims to the resource-rich waterway, including parts of the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
Video courtesy of PTV