By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Manila Bulletin

The United States government should pay the Philippines first in order to resume the exercises under Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday.

“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,” Duterte said at the inspection of new air assets of the Philippine Air Force in Clark Air Base in Pampanga on Friday night.

“Your share of responsibility does not come free because after all, when the war breaks out, we all pay,” Duterte added.

Inked between the two nations in 1999, VFA allows American military to conduct joint military exercises, counter intelligence training, and engaging in humanitarian missions with Filipino counterparts.

However, the VFA restricts US troops from joining combat operations.

Duterte said the America’s helping hand is crucial that he would rather put his ill-feelings about them in a backburner.

"In the past, ang hinanakit ko, we ask so much from them because they have taken so much from us na libre...iyong advancing their troops in our land, okay lang 'yan sa akin. We do not want to quarrel with anybody," Duterte said.

"The exigency of the moment requires their (Americans) presence here," he added.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the United States and the Philippines will meet later this month to have discussions with the fate of the VFA, which was suspended by the government.

In February 2020, Duterte ordered VFA suspension, after US revoked the visa of one of his top allies Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

However, there are no reasons on Dela Rosa’s visa cancellation, but it was speculated to his involvement in Duterte’s deadly war against drugs that killed at least 6,000 individuals.

The VFA is under the Mutual Defense Treaty that signed by Manila and Washington in 1952.

The MDT provides that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either the Philippines and the US would be dangerous and that they would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.