Envoy to US hopes America's list of aid for AFP could satisfy Duterte
The United States has provided a "complete" list of hardware to be given to the Philippine military, which the country's diplomat hoped could "satisfy" President Rodrigo Duterte in order for the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries continues.
In the "Laging Handa" public briefing, Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said during his virtual meeting this year with US officials, they discussed about the VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty.
"About the payment that President Duterte mentioned, our interpretation is there is a need to modernize the Armed Forces. So, we were able to get a list provided to us by Pentagon," he said.
He said the list seemed to be complete and his office sent it to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
"More arms or whatever hardware that we need from the United States are expected to arrive," Romualdez said.
"So hopefully the President has already seen (the list) because it's already with Secretary Lorenzana, that would probably satisfy the President's concern regarding the modernization of the Armed Forces," he stressed.
He said that 10 more Black Hawk helicopters are expected to be delivered in the Philippines within this year.
Duterte earlier said that US should pay the Philippines if it wants the VFA to continue.
In February last year, Duterte ordered the termination of VFA. But when health emergency was declared in the country due to coronavirus pandemic, Duterte suspended the process of abolition and it has been held until June this year.
Asked if US possible provision of military equipment could convince Duterte to keep the VFA, Romualdez said, "Well, at the end of the day, the President has the sole prerogative to either review or extend the Visiting Forces Agreement. Our work here in America is to make sure that all of these are communicated properly to the right channels and whatever the President will say, we will follow."
He expressed belief that whatever issues the Philippines raises in the bilateral strategic dialogue of the two countries every year, "the United States is prepared what to see what they can do."
He also noted that the recent pronouncement of US President Joe Biden about strengthening alliances all over the world, especially in Asia, fits with what Duterte wants.
"We want our Armed Forces to be prepared in such as way that there's mutual defense. Mutual defense meaning to say we can also be ready when there's a problem, when there is an enemy, we can also keep up with America. So, that's the policy that President Biden also would like to implement here. So, again, I guess that jives with what President Duterte would like also to happen," the envoy explained. Celerina Monte/DMS