Clueless on aid

Palace still verifying NYT story on $300-m request

MALACAÑANG said  Tuesday  it would verify a report from the New York Times that Washington rejected a Philippine request for $300 million in military aid because it was worried about corruption and Manila’s capacity to handle an influx of resources.

“We have no direct information on that. We need to verify if that report has basis,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“Such allegations [of corruption] are purely speculative and unfounded. US President Barack Obama himself invited President Aquino to the launching of the US global initiative on good governance,” Coloma added.

Quoting a senior Philippine official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the NYT story “Warily Eyeing China, Philippines May Invite US Back to Subic Bay” said the request was made in private talks in which Manila argued the need for a substantial buildup of planes and ships to deter Chinese expansionism.

Defense spokesman Peter Galvez denied that a request for $300 million in aid was made to Washington.

“We are not aware of any request for $300 million. As for the corruption issue, ever since we pursued the modernization program, we have always been transparent in our procurement and we have instituted measures to thwart corruption,” Galvez said.

Coloma also took exception to the statement of Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, who said it was “traitorous” of the Aquino administration to run to Washington and covertly seek funding for military improvements.

Ridon also slammed the plan of the Aquino administration to reopen the Subic Bay base to the US military allegedly under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

“That is an unfair allegation. The DND announced from the start the possible use of Subic by the Armed Forces of the Philippines without reference to EDCA as this is still being reviewed by the Supreme Court,” Coloma said.

“Having foreign military troops also goes against our Constitution, and the government never commit acts that violate our laws or the Constitution. So that allegation has no basis,” the Palace official added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also said it would seek to verify the New York Times story.

“I have to check” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a text message.

Jose declined to comment on the allegations of corruption.

“Corruption where? In the military? Better ask the DND or AFP to comment,” Jose said.

Lawmakers on Tuesday expressed concern over the US rejection of the administration’s $300-million request.

But Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, said the rejection reflected the “Janus face” of the US.

“If the US is sincere about its concern on corruption in the Philippines, it will stop all forms of help, including military aid,” Zarate told The Standard.

Zarate said if the US were truly concerned about the issue on corruption and human rights violations in the Philippines, why was it still helping the country on matters pertaining to counter-insurgency programs?

Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, a member of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, said the reported rejection would be a black mark on the Aquino administration.

Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan, also member of the Makabayan bloc, said the US decision only showed that corruption in the Aquino administration was confirmed “by an external entity.”

“So what else is new? It’s a good thing Aquino’s begging expedition was exposed. So shameless! Their own corruption did them in,” Ilagan said.

The Sept. 19 story in the Times, “Warily Eyeing China, Philippines May Invite US Back to Subic Bay,” had earlier drew a strong reaction from Ridon, a leftist lawmaker, who demanded that the Aquino administration disclose details of the secret aid request as well as plans to reopen the US military base in Subic Bay. With Vito Barcelo

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