Duterte warning on pact with US baffles aides
President Duterte’s warning to pull the plug on the country’s military pact with the United States in retaliation for an American agency’s decision to withhold a $434-million aid package to the Philippines has befuddled his aides in Manila.
Marie Banaag, presidential communications assistant secretary, maintained the President’s threat on Saturday to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was merely “a warning.”
“It wasn’t really something the President said he will immediately revoke,” Banaag said on Sunday over state radio dzRB.
“So we will still have to wait for the next move of the President and, of course, the advisers, what they think about this,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino. “We will wait in the coming days what could happen.”
After visiting wounded soldiers in Zamboanga City on Saturday, the foul-mouthed President did not mince words as he let out his disgust over the decision of the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) to rescind its five-year funding to the Philippine government’s antipoverty programs.
“We will not go hungry without the American aid,” he said. “We are not that desperate.”
The President also threatened to raze the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City in response to those accusing him of human rights violations.
“You go and file a complaint in the United Nations. I will burn down the United Nations if you want. I will burn it down if I go to America,” he said.
Banaag admitted that aides were clueless over the President’s disclosure that China had offered “50 billion” in financial package, saying it was still unclear if the amount was in peso or US dollar.
She said she would have to ask the Department of Finance if Beijing had indeed offered such financial assistance to the Philippines.
“So there are yet negotiations about the offer as to whether this would be given without conditions because the President is sensitive about these things,” she said.
Apparently playing down the effect of the cancelation of the MCC funding, Mr. Duterte claimed China had made available “50 billion” in financial aid, but did not elaborate.
He said Russia had also offered its help when he met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru, last month.
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