The U.S. military aid provided to the Philippines amounts to “loose change” compared to other Asian nations, a spokesman for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday.
“If we have very strong ties with a very strong ally, then I think it also comes with a higher amount of financial assistance to be given,” Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters on February 15.
“We got $3.9 billion. Is that a huge amount? That’s loose change compared to what other countries were getting,” he said at a regularly scheduled press briefing.
Roque referred to the findings of a study by the Washington D.C.-based Stimson Center, which showed that the U.S. donated $3.9 billion in counterterrorism support to the Philippines between 2002-2017. The U.S. donated $16.4 billion to Pakistan for the same purpose over the same time period.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on February 12 urged the U.S. to be more generous in its funding to the Philippines if it wants to protect the terms of its historic Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the country. The VFA, established in 1999, allows the U.S. to maintain a rotating troop presence on the Southeast Asian archipelago, whose location along the eastern rim of the disputed South China Sea is strategically important as a counter to China.
“I’d like to put on notice if there is an American agent here, from now on, you want the Visiting Forces Agreement done? You have to pay,” Duterte said while addressing Philippine troops after inspecting newly acquired Philippine Air Force assets.
“It is a shared responsibility, but your share of responsibility does not come free, after all, when the war breaks out we all pay,” Duterte said, alluding to a possible South China Sea conflict between the U.S. and China.
Duterte canceled the VFA in February 2020 after Washington denied a political ally of his a U.S. visa. Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., acting on Duterte’s order, suspended the revocation of the VFA for six months on June 1, citing the Chinese coronavirus pandemic and “heightened superpower tensions.” Manila extended the suspension order by an additional six months in November. Philippine government officials say they have extended the suspension to allow more time for the two sides to agree to better terms.
Roque said on Monday that Duterte was upholding the Philippines’ national interest and “not committing extortion,” as some critics have alleged, by extending the VFA suspension. Duterte has demanded fair compensation for the VFA, according to Roque, because a rotating U.S. troop presence in the Philippines puts the country at risk should a military conflict arise.
“Are we correct in asking for payment so they can maintain their presence and equipment (here)? Why not?” Roque asked.