Presidential Spox downplays "extortion" claims
Secretary Roque says the Philippines seeks “just compensation”
MANILA – The Philippine government seeks “just compensation” for the use of its facilities by the United States armed forces allowed under the existing Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which took effect May 27.1999 and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which was signed last April 28,2014 a few hours before then President Barack Obama visited the Philippines.
Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, in his regular press briefing at midday today quoted President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks over the weekend when the latter said should the Americans want the continuation of the Visiting Forces Agreement, appropriate payment should be made.
“I would like to put on notice if there’s an American agent here, that from now on, you want the Visiting Forces agreement done? Well, they have to pay. It’s a shared responsibility, but your share of responsibility does not come free,” President Duterte said.
Secretary Roque said the EDCA has allowed the prepositioning of American soldiers in the Philippines and as such would make the country and its people a “valid military target” should armed conflict takes place.
“They can use Philippine military bases at any time for US$3.9 billion. Pakistan receives $16.4 billion and pays Turkey a lot more for American military presence,” he said.
He explained the Philippine government needs all the money for its COVID-19 response as he downplayed claims of “extortion” on the part of the Duterte government.
“This is in pursuit of national interest that we should charge them for our COVID-19 response which requires funds,” he further explained.
Asked of the cost-benefit ratio of the seven-decades old Mutual Defense Treaty, Secretary Roque said there are certainly advantages and disadvantages.
“I cannot answer that in one press briefing. What we are asking for is just compensation and not hand-me-down equipment. What modern weapons we have today were bought by the Philippine government,” he further said. (Melo M. Acuña)
Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque (Screen Grab from February 15,2021 Press Briefing/Melo M. Acuna)