US told: You want VFA? Pay us

US told: You want VFA? Pay us

Hours after threatening to scrap the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States after the US-led Millennium Challenge Corp. deferred voting on its assistance to the Philippines, President Duterte imposed one condition on Washington if it would want the deal retained.

“You want to come back here? You pay us. You want bases here? Pay us. Transaction tayo, pera-pera na lang tayo, mabuti pa (Let’s enter into a transaction. Let’s make it all about money. We would be better off like that),” Duterte said in a speech delivered in General Santos City on Saturday night.

“There are no wars right now, why would I allow you here? You want to create World War III? If you do that, if all the nuclear explosives are really (used), this planet won’t be around tomorrow. It’s the end for all of us, so why would we pick a fight with anybody?” he added.

The US said yesterday it would work with Duterte to address any concerns after he threatened to terminate a pact allowing US troops to visit the Philippines.

The US embassy in Manila said in a statement that Washington would work closely with the Duterte administration to address any concerns it may have. It did not elaborate.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but spokesman Josh Earnest said previously that the White House would not react publicly each time Duterte made an offhand remark.

On Saturday, Duterte threatened to abrogate the VFA after the MCC deferred a $433-million aid to the Philippines over “concerns around rule of law and civil liberties” under his administration.

A spokeswoman for the MCC, Laura Allen, said Thursday that it would continue to monitor events in the Philippines before the next board review in March 2017.

The 71-year-old Duterte, who describes himself as a left-wing politician, has made similar threats before and after taking office in June, but he and his officials walked back on many of his public statements, causing confusion.

While calling Americans “sons of b******” and “hypocrites,” Duterte praised China as having the “kindest soul of all” for offering what he said was significant financial assistance. “So what do I need America for?” he said.

He also said Russia can be a very important ally. “They do not insult people, they do not interfere,” he added.

The Philippines has been slated for another aid package after its previous five-year, $434 million poverty reduction program was successfully completed in May under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III.

The US decision is among the first signs of how concerns about the rule of law and human rights under Duterte could entail economic costs.

Apparently to get even, Duterte said the US should “prepare to leave the Philippines, prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation” of the VFA.

                                 – Alexis Romero, AP