Philippines denies trying to ‘extort’ US after Duterte demands Washington pay for its troops staying in the country

The presidential spokesman has denied allegations that the government is trying to extort money from the US in exchange for a new Visiting Forces Agreement, but is upset that Washington gives more defense aid to other countries.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is only asking for compensation for the continued presence of American troops in the Philippines, presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters on Monday. 

This is not extortion… The Philippines can face huge damages when we are involved in a war of attrition that we are not involved in but because the Americans are here and their armies and their equipment, it means we can be a valid military target.

Roque added that the president wouldn’t accept any rotten equipment as payment, but “just compensation,” adding that Manila laments the fact the US has given more money to other countries. 

Citing a report that the Philippines was given a total of $3.9 billion from 2002 to 2017 for counter-terrorism efforts, while Pakistan received $16.4 billion, the spokesman noted: “We think we should get something similar or close to that amount. But definitely, not the amount we are currently getting.” 

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The spokesman’s comments come after the president’s demands for US cash were fiercely criticized by fellow politicians.

Vice President Leni Robredo said on Sunday that the leader’s remarks would give the impression that the Philippines is a “nation of extortionists,” adding that the comments were embarrassing for everyone in the country. 

Senator Panfilo Lacson said Duterte’s comments were no way to treat a long-time ally of the Philippines. 

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On Friday, Duterte conceded that the “exigency” of the geopolitical situation makes the presence of US troops in the country a necessity, but warned Washington it won’t be getting anything for free this time. 

“I want to put notice, if there is an American agent here, if you want VFA you have to pay. You have to pay because it is a shared responsibility,” he stated.

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.

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