The US reaffirmed that it will continue to sell weapons to the Philippines despite concerns over Manila’s extrajudicial killings surrounding the country’s drug war. A Pentagon spokesperson told Nikkei Asia that there are “no restrictions” on US arms sales to the Philippines.
“We will continue to look for ways to further strengthen and advance security cooperation that furthers shared security challenges and respects human rights,” the spokesperson said.
The comments come as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is deliberating on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows US troops in the Philippines on a rotational basis. “I have not yet decided on what to do, to abrogate or renew,” Duterte said of the VFA on Wednesday. “I want to hear the people. I want narratives to come.”
Last year, Duterte was ready to scrap the deal, as well as the Mutual Defense Treaty, over US visa restrictions on Philippine officials for their role in the drug war.
Duterte later reversed his decision, citing tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea, and the VFA has been temporarily extended. Now, Duterte is looking to get as much as he can out of the US for a more long-term agreement. And with the Biden administration prioritizing Asia in its efforts to counter China, he’s in a good position.
Earlier this month, Duterte said the US “will have to pay” to extend the VFA. Last week, Harry Roque, a spokesman for Duterte, said the US provides the Philippines with military aid that amounts to “loose change.”
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.