US weapons, hardware in exchange for VFA
The United States has sent a list of aid for the Philippine military, and the country’s Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez hopes this would be enough to satisfy the President’s concerns in connection with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Romualdez said he considered President Rodrigo Duterte’s demand for payment from the United States in exchange for retaining the VFA to be connected to the need to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“Regarding President Duterte’s statement about payment, our interpretation is because there is already a need to modernize our armed forces,” Romualdez said at an online briefing.
He said the Pentagon had since provided a list to Philippine officials, which was compared with a list sent to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and it appeared to be enough to address the country’s requests for aid.
More arms and hardware from the United States are also coming, he added.
“Hopefully, the President has seen that since that is with Secretary Lorenzana, and that would probably satisfy the President’s concern regarding the modernization of the armed forces. And more are coming especially helicopters. We will get something like 10 more Blackhawk helicopters coming to the Philippines within this year,” he said.
He said the list given to Lorenzana was a lengthy one, which contained what was programmed since 2016.
“All of what we wanted and needed were mostly granted, and more are coming,” he added.
He acknowledged that the Mr. Duterte has the sole prerogative to extend or review the VFA, and the United States is prepared to address concerns that the Philippines would bring up.
“I think whatever issues that we bring up, the United States is prepared to see what they can do,” he said.
Romualdez believes the Philippines and the United States would maintain their good relation and they would be able to sort out their problems in a mutually beneficial way.
He noted that US President Joe Biden stated that he wants to strengthen alliances all over the world, especially in Asia.
Mr. Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA last year after the United States canceled the visa of his close ally, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.
But he has since suspended the abrogation.
He said the United States must pay if it wanted to keep the VFA.
He also said he would solicit the public’s opinion on the matter before making his final decision.