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‘If you want Visiting Forces Agreement, you have to pay!’: Philippines’ Duterte signals freebie for US is over

“I want to put notice, if there is an American agent here, if you want VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement], you have to pay. You have to pay because it is a shared responsibility,” President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday night.

“Your share of responsibility does not come free because, after all, when the war breaks out, we all pay,” he added, during an inspection of new air assets of the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base.

The president said he was happy to put his ill-feelings about the US on the backburner and focus on cooperation, amid simmering tensions in the South China Sea.

“In the past, I was offended, we ask so much from them because they have taken so much from us for free” he said, but admitted, “the exigency of the moment requires their [Americans’] presence here.” 

In February 2020, Duterte cancelled the 20-year-old VFA with the US, after Washington revoked the visa of his close aide and now senator, Ronald Dela Rosa, but has twice delayed the move to kick US troops out of the Philippines.

In November, the government announced it would suspend the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement by yet another six months, in order to “find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable and more effective and lasting arrangement.” 

The agreement allows US troops to hold joint military exercises, counterintelligence training and to engage in humanitarian aid missions in the Philippines.

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