With the US and the Philippines working out an extension of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows US troops in the Southeast Asian country on a rotational basis, Manila is looking to get as much money as it can out of Washington.
Harry Roque, a spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said the US provides the Philippines military assistance that amounts to “loose change” compared to other countries. “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,” he said.
Roque cited a study that showed the US gave the Philippines $3.9 billion in military aid from 2002 to 2017, compared with $16.4 billion that Pakistan received over the same period. “We got $3.9 billion. Is that a huge amount? That’s loose change compared to what other countries were getting,” he said.
Last week, Duterte said the US will “have to pay” to extend the VFA. The Philippine president was ready to scrap the VFA as well as the Mutual Defense Treaty last year, but reversed his decision over tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea.
With the Biden administration prioritizing alliances in Asia to counter China, the Philippines are in a good position to negotiate a deal. The VFA was temporarily extended while the two countries work out a more long-term agreement. US and Philippine officials are expected to meet this month to work out differences over the deal.