Visiting Forces Agreement

Pay for VFA? Romualdez hopes Pentagon list of aid will satisfy Duterte

Pia Ranada
Pay for VFA? Romualdez hopes Pentagon list of aid will satisfy Duterte

DUTERTE VS AMERICA. President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly ranted about the United States after some of its government officials criticized him for his anti-drug campaign.

Malacañang photo

Philippine envoy to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez thinks President Duterte just needs to be assured of US aid for the military modernization program

After President Rodrigo Duterte railed that the United States must provide payment for the continuation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Pentagon sent the government a list of military aid intended for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez, who received the list from US officials, hopes it will be enough to “satisfy” Duterte.

The Philippine leader’s threats about the VFA were discussed during a meeting between Romualdez, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and Edgard Kagan of the State Department “last week,” said Romualdez on Friday, March 5, in a virtual interview. He was referring to late February.

“What the President said about payment, our interpretation is, because we need to modernize the Armed Forces. So we got a list given to us by the Pentagon, we compared it to the list they sent Secretary Lorenzana,” said Romualdez in Filipino.

He then said it appears the list of US military aid is “complete” and “sufficient,” especially since more defense equipment is on the way.

“It looks sufficient in all that we asked for. It looks complete and more arms will be coming and whatever hardware we need from the United States,” he continued.

The list was sent to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Romualdez hopes it will reach Duterte.

“That will probably satisfy the President’s concern regarding the modernization of the Armed Forces,” said the ambassador.

The Philippine military can look forward to “something like 10 more Black Hawk helicopters” headed for the Philippines within the year, said Romualdez.

Duterte’s beef with America

The efforts of both Philippine and US officials to keep track and review all American aid to Philippine defense and security comes after Duterte demanded payment from Washington for the continuation of the VFA.

The Philippine commander-in-chief had said the Philippines should be compensated for taking on the risk of allowing American soldiers in its territory.

Malacañang then released a list showing how little the Philippines supposedly got in US counter-terrorism aid compared to 11 other countries, from 2002 to 2017.

The 11 other countries are higher on terrorism threat lists than the Philippines.

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The VFA is an important military agreement that governs and facilitates the entry of American soldiers into the Philippines.

It is set to expire on August 9, after Duterte ordered its termination in February 2020.

Last Wednesday, February 24, Duterte said he had not yet made up his mind on whether or not to push through with the VFA’s termination.

If the VFA termination process pushes through, the agreement will end in a year that marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the US. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.