US should pay for using PH military sites to fund MUP – senator | Inquirer News

US should pay for using PH military sites to fund MUP – senator

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:55 AM June 12, 2023

Ronald dela Rosa STORY: US should pay for using PH military sites to fund MUP – senator

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa (File photo from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines — The government should demand payment from the United States for its use of military facilities in the Philippines to raise fresh funds for the pension system of military and other uniformed personnel (MUP), Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said on Sunday.

Dela Rosa said the government may also offer other military properties in prime locations for lease to generate additional funding for the MUP retirement system, which President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wanted to be self-sustaining to prevent its projected depletion in the next six years.


Reviving his previous scathing remarks against the United States, the former Philippine National Police chief pointed out that American forces have been allowed to stay in the Philippines practically for free under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries.


“We have to amend the VFA and tell [the United States] to pay. They have been using our land, but they don’t pay for anything,” Dela Rosa said in an interview with radio dzBB’s “Bantay Balita sa Kongreso.”

“When they come here to the Philippines, we don’t even require them to get visas. But when we travel to the US, it’s difficult for us to get [a] visa,” said the senator, whose visa was revoked by Washington in 2020 apparently due to his role as the primary enforcer of then President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.

The senator echoed Duterte’s criticism of US-Philippine relations, calling it “one-sided” in favor of the Americans.

“Where’s the principle of reciprocity in international relations? Why is our relationship one-sided? There’s no reciprocity at all,” he lamented.

Dela Rosa issued the remarks more than a month after Marcos’ first working visit to Washington, which served to renew diplomatic ties between the two longtime allies after it turned icy during the Duterte administration.

Financing problem

Marcos’ trip to the United States also came on the heels of the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between Manila and Washington, adding four new locations to the five previous ones that American forces may access, three of which are facing Taiwan in northern Luzon.


Duterte had chosen to develop closer relations with China in exchange for aid and investment pledges despite the maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing.

The MUP pension system is fully funded by the national government, unlike the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) whose members contribute part of their monthly salary to the retirement fund.

The current MUP scheme covers retirees from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Public Safety College, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Bureau of Corrections.

Since the pension amount is pegged to the current monthly pay of personnel in active service, payments to retiring personnel increased substantially when Duterte doubled the salaries of the armed services in 2018.

National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon had earlier said that the funding required to pay for MUP pensions has been growing at a “fiscally unsustainable rate,” with the unfunded liabilities already estimated at P9.6 trillion as of 2020, prompting current efforts to reform the retirement scheme.

When the Marcos administration proposed that active MUPs contribute to their pension system similar to the practice among public and private employees covered by the GSIS and the SSS, this was strongly opposed by active military personnel.

They were also against the plan to remove the provision in the current system that pegs the retirees’ monthly pension to the current salary of those occupying the next higher rank.

Once removed as proposed by the Executive department, a person retiring as a colonel, for example, will get a pension equal to the salary of a colonel, not that of the next higher rank of one-star general.

The executive branch likewise recommended that the MUP pension system reforms cover both active personnel and new entrants, with all of them making contributions for their pension — a move opposed by uniformed personnel who argued that the new pension system should be applied only to new entrants.

At a Senate hearing last month on the proposed pension system changes, Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr., then the officer in charge of the Department of National Defense, warned that up to 80 percent of military servicemen were looking at availing themselves of optional retirement to lock in their benefits before the government revises their pension system.

More hearings needed

Dela Rosa reminded Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno and the rest of the economic managers to hold their horses in pushing for drastic reforms in the MUP pension, warning that it could lead to a “mass exodus” of active uniformed personnel.

He noted that Diokno had been adamant in requiring soldiers, policemen, coast guard, jail guards, firefighters, and corrections officers to shell out money from their monthly income for their pension.

A Senate bill restructuring the MUP retirement system is currently being discussed by a technical working group (TWG) composed of representatives from the uniformed services and the government’s financial agencies.

“To our economic managers, don’t be in a rush to have this (measure) passed. We need an extensive consultation on this,” the police general-turned-senator said.

“Everybody will benefit from this. But also, it’s possible that everybody will all suffer from this measure,” he maintained.

Dela Rosa said he would also move to have the proposed measure be taken up again by the Senate Committee on National Defense, chaired by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada since President Marcos appointed lawyer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. last week as defense secretary.

“We need more hearings,” he insisted. “The TWG should not be allowed to decide on this bill.”

Diokno, he said, should understand that it would be more costly for the government to insist on requiring active uniformed personnel to contribute to their pension as it might force them to apply for early retirement.

“If they all will file for early retirement, the government would pay trillions of pesos in retirement benefits. That would really lead to a fiscal collapse,” Dela Rosa warned.

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“I’m not a hard-liner against pension reforms just because I’m a retired police officer,” he reiterated. “But we have to meet halfway because this is for the entire country. We don’t want to compromise our national security and law enforcement sector for this.”


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TAGS: EDCA sites, military and uniformed personnel, MUP pension system, Ronald dela Rosa

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