US gives in to Duterte demand for military aid

Image Courtesy of NY Times

Several days after demanding more military aid from the United States in exchange for preserving the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), President Rodrigo Duterte appears to have gotten what he wanted.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez has announced that the Pentagon has given the Philippines an inventory of arms and military hardware it can provide to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Mukhang sapat naman sa lahat ng mga hinihingi natin. Mukhang kumpleto naman at marami pang dadating sa mga kailangan natin na mga armas o whatever hardware that we need from the United States (It looks like what they will give is enough and more will be coming, arms or whatever hardware we need from the United States),” Romualdez said.

In a recent speech, Duterte insisted that the US government pay up or he would abolish the VFA, which allows US troops to hold military exercises in the country.

His spokesman, Harry Roque Jr., said the Philippines had been receiving far less military assistance than other countries the US has a similar pact with.

Roque said the Philippines should get at least what Pakistan is getting, about $16.4 billion in military aid.

Washington has been generous in providing military assistance to Pakistan, which has been fighting an uphill battle against Islamist insurgents.

Romualdez believes the US aid package will “satisfy” Duterte.

“That would probably satisfy the President’s concern regarding itong pag-modernize ng ating armed forces at marami pang darating (the modernization of AFP and more will be coming),” he said.

Romualdez said he is confident the two countries will be able to iron out their differences.

“I’m confident na maski ano man ang mangyari importante itong relasyon natin sa Amerika at I think we will continue to have good relations with this country and so all of these problems [will be sort out] in a way that is mutually beneficial to all of us (I’m confident whatever happens, our relationship with America is important and I think we will continue to have good relations with this country and so all of these problems [will be sort out] in a way that is mutually beneficial to all of us),” he said.

In February last year, Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA after Washington canceled the visa of former Philippine National Police chief now senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa over alleged human rights abuses during the administration’s war on drugs.

Duterte later softened his position and put the VFA’s abrogation on hold.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the move will enable the government to find a better way to improve its mutual defense arrangements with the US.

Last week, Duterte said he wanted to hear first what the public had to say before deciding the VFA’s fate.

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