FAQs: Boosting US troops' presence in PH
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday, August 16, released a list of frequently asked questions on increased US presence in the Philippines. Rappler is republishing these FAQs with minor editing for style.
1. What is increased rotational presence (IRP)?
Increased rotational presence is the policy that increases the presence of United States forces on a rotational basis in Philippine territory toward the development of a minimum credible defense posture.
2. What is involved in IRP?
A minimum credible defense posture is intended to enhance maritime domain awareness and develop a deterrence capability. This can be accomplished through high-impact and high-value joint exercises. This will promote inter-operability and capacity building, which, in turn, will bolster humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
3. How many troops will be allowed? How long will these troops be allowed to be stationed in the Philippines?
The number of troops and areas where they will be deployed depends on the scale of operations that we will approve. The IRP Framework Agreement does not deal with operational details.
4. Where will they be stationed?
We are not talking about stationing. We are talking about presence in relation to activities, and these activities will be held in AFP-owned or -controlled facilities or areas.
5. Will the IRP Framework Agreement allow the US to store weapons of mass destruction and armed drones in the country?
No. We will comply with the constitutional prohibition against nuclear weapons. If we suspect or believe that a vessel or aircraft has a nuclear weapon, we will it deny entry.
6. Is the IRP Framework Agreement like the deployment of US Special Forces in Mindanao?
No. This unit, the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), has a specific function. It was brought to the country after September 2001, at the request of the Philippine government, to advise and assist the AFP in countering terrorism. The IRP Framework Agreement, on the other hand, addresses the current thrust of the AFP, which is external defense.
7. How is the proposed IRP Framework Agreement different from the existing MDT with the US and the VFA?
The IRP Framework Agreement is already within the ambit of the existing MDT and VFA. By this IRP Framework Agreement, we are merely institutionalizing a fuller and more effective implementation of the MDT and VFA.
8. What is the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)?
VFA is a status of forces agreement. It basically states that US forces in the Philippines have to follow Philippine law. US forces have to adhere to behavior that is consistent with Philippine law.
9. Why do you need an IRP Framework Agreement when you have the MDT and VFA?
MDT and VFA do not list the activities that the Philippines and the US will do. The IRP Framework Agreement lists and defines these activities.
10. Will the IRP Framework Agreement, if signed, provide a blanket authority for all activities of the US troops in the future?
No. Each activity under the IRP Framework Agreement will have to be approved by the Philippine side.
11. Will the IRP Framework Agreement replace the existing VFA and the MDT?
No. The proposed IRP Framework Agreement will be an implementation of the MDT with the United States, particularly its Article II on working together more effectively to build the two countries’ individual defense capabilities. The proposed agreement will be covered by the VFA, which grants status to US troops.
12. Will the US come to the defense of the Philippines when attacked?
The US has, time and again, stated that it will honor its commitments under the MDT.
13. If, for example, a Philippine vessel is harassed by a foreign vessel, how will the MDT come into play?
We cannot respond to a hypothetical situation because it would reveal operational details that would affect our national security.
14. Is this proposed IRP Framework Agreement constitutional?
Yes. The proposed IRP Framework Agreement will be consistent with the Philippine Constitution, Philippine laws, and Philippine treaty commitments. The Philippine negotiating panel will ensure full respect of Philippine sovereignty.
15. Does the proposed IRP Framework Agreement need Senate concurrence?
We are cognizant of what constitutes an executive agreement and a treaty. The Philippine negotiating panel will confine the substance of the proposed framework agreement to an executive agreement.
16. What are the specific benefits of the proposed IRP Framework Agreement?
The specific benefits will include acceleration of the modernization of the AFP, inter-operability, capacity building, and enhanced capability for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
17. According to some interest groups, the increased rotational presence of the US in the country is tantamount to having de facto bases. Is this true?
No de facto bases or any kind of bases. The Philippine negotiating panel will be totally guided by the provisions of the Philippine Constitution, which explicitly prohibits the establishment of foreign bases on Philippine territory.
18. Will the United States use Subic Bay as its new base of operations?
No. There will be no US bases in the Philippines.
19. Are the discussions with the US on the IRP Framework Agreement related to the proposed relocation of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and Philippine Navy (PN) to Subic?
With or without talks on the IRP Framework Agreement, the DND and AFP are strengthening defense capabilities in Subic, which remains a strategic location. The discussions with the US on the IRP Framework Agreement are separate from the proposed relocation of the PAF and PN to Subic.
20. So if the AFP will already be in Subic, why do you still need the US there?
In terms of modernization, the US rotational presence will maximize the resources we are providing to upgrade our defense.
21. Is the Philippines inviting other countries for a similar arrangement?
Even as the Philippines would like to expand its defense cooperation with like-minded countries, the IRP Framework Agreement would be limited to the Philippines and the United States.
ON EXTERNAL THREATS
22. Will the proposed IRP Framework Agreement help thwart external threats?
The modernization efforts of the AFP have for their primary objective the attainment of a minimum credible defense posture. As provided in the Constitution, the AFP’s mandate is to protect the territory and sovereignty of the country. All the programs to be implemented by the DND and the AFP, including the negotiations with the US for a proposed IRP Framework Agreement, are primarily geared to defend what is ours, secure the nation, and keep our people safe.
23. How do we envision the future of our defense cooperation with the US?
We will strengthen our capabilities for external and territorial defense by continuing to work with our treaty ally in a mutually beneficial way, in line with what is allowed by the Philippine Constitution.
24. Will the Philippines be a magnet for trouble due to the implementation of the IRP Framework Agreement and increased presence of US troops?
If one is better prepared, external elements that have ill intentions will tend to think twice.
25. Is the Philippines preparing for war?
No. Article II of the Philippine Constitution specifically renounces war as an instrument of national policy. It is, however, the expressed duty of the government to defend what is ours, secure our nation, and keep our people safe.
26. Is the IRP Framework Agreement directed at a particular country in the region?
No. The IRP Framework Agreement prepares us from any and all forces that may bear ill intentions toward us.
27. How will the IRP Framework Agreement affect bilateral relations with China?
It should not affect relations with China.
28. Why should the Filipinos support the IRP Framework Agreement?
It will take us many years to bring us to the level of modernization that we seek for our AFP. With the support of all Filipinos, the IRP Framework Agreement will significantly help the country to temporarily fill that gap. All Filipinos should unite for a stronger Philippines. – Rappler.com