By Corina Oliquino

MANILA – Vice-president Leni Robredo in her February 13 radio show Biserbisyong Leni criticized as embarrassing President Rodrigo Duterte’s demand for the United States to pay for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), adding the statement could be taken as “extortion.”

“Para sa akin, nakakahiya,” Robredo said.

“Parang extortion lang. Parang kriminal eh: ‘Kung gusto mo nito magbayad ka muna,'” she added.

Robredo noted that the Philippines should list the reasons for its position of not wanting to renew the VFA and “show why the military deal would not be beneficial to Filipinos.”

“Hindi ‘yung pera ang consideration,” she said.

“Ang nakabase ito, mutual benefit ng parehong parties to contract. Hindi naman dahil kaibigan kita dahil binigyan mo ako ng pera,” she added.

When facing the members of the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base in Pampanga last February 12, President Rodrigo Duterte said the US must pay if it wants the VFA to continue.

“I would like to put on notice, if there’s an American agent here, that from now on, you want the Visiting Forces Agreement done? You have to pay,” Duterte said.

“It is shared responsibility but your share of responsibility does not come free. Because after all, when the war breaks out, we all pay,” he added.

Future of VFA

In a report by Rappler, last December 2020 Duterte threatened to boot out American soldiers if they fail to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the country.

“Kung hindi sila maka-deliver ng maski  a minimum of 20 million vaccines, they better get out, no vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said.

“Do not believe in that s*** America delivering kaagad, hindi nga niya ma-deliver sa kanilang lugar, dito pa? Itong Amerikano talaga.  I’ve been in government, I’ve dealt with them many times, and that’s why naging cynic na ako sa kanila,” he said.

“If America wants to help – deliver. Stop talking. What we need is the vaccine, not your verbose speeches,” he added.

In February 2020, Duterte sent notice that the Philippines would terminate the VFA, with the deal lasting until August until he suspended it twice, in June and in November, putting the decades-long military agreement back until 2021.