Senator Panfilo Lacson on Saturday maintained that the Philippines did not mean to extort from the United States when President Duterte told the country to “pay” before he reconsiders the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Lacson, on February 13, posted on Twitter a clarification addressed to the US in reference to Duterte’s statement.
He wrote: “Dear Sam, this is refers to the statement, ‘You want the VFA? You have to pay.”
“Just to clarify, please be informed that we are not a nation of extortionists; at lalong hindi kami ‘mukhang pera’ (and most especially, we are not greedy people). Err… hindi lahat (not all of us).”
He ended his supposed letter with: “Shamefully, Juan”, using the moniker for Filipinos.
A netizen then asked the senator if Philippines should not ask the US to pay, as the President had demanded
He replied: “For national interest, we should. The diplomatic channels should be a better route to accomplish the same desired results.”
“At least give the other party an elbow room to save face instead of looking bullied and stripped of dignity,” he added.
In his speech in Clark, Pampanga, on Friday, February 12, Duterte said: “I’d 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.”
“It’s a shared responsibility. But, your share of responsibility does not come free because, after all, when the war breaks out, we all pay,” he added.
Duterte did not elaborate what or how much the US has to pay, but alluded to the tension in the South China Sea. He said the Philippines will the “nearest possible and convenient outpost” for the Americans in case a war breaks out.
Still, the Philippine leader said he understands “the exigency of the moment requires their (US) presence here” and is “okay” with it.
In December last year, Duterte warned the US that he will proceed with the abrogation of the VFA if the country fails to produce 20 million doses of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines for the Philippines.
“Kung hindi sila maka-deliver, maski na a (If they fail to deliver even just a) minimum of 20 million [doses of] vaccines, they better get out. No vaccine, no stay here,” he said then.
Duterte, in February 2020, ordered the termination of the Philippines VFA with the US supposedly due to the “disrespectful” acts of Americans, with the cancellation of the US visa of his ally, Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, as the “last straw”.
While Malacañang previously that Duterte’s stand remains unchanged, the Philippines already suspended the abrogation twice, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.