PH, US bases access talks reach 'impasse'
MANILA, Philippines — Negotiations between the Philippines and the US to grant American troops more access to the country's military bases have reached an "impasse," according to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Wednesday, November 6.
The Philippine panel is opposing the US panel's condition that limits Filipino troops' access to temporary facilities that American troops will be building once the access deal is signed.
"We want access to both. It should not be limited to them. We want equal opportunity and equal access," Gazmin said.
"Everything should be beneficial to the Philippines. That is the major idea," he added.
The military-to-military agreement is expected to boost the defense capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines amid growing territorial threats, increase the training of its troops, and improve disaster response. (READ: PH should raise its game in dispute vs China — US experts)
The Philippines and the US held the 4th round of talks on October 3. It was a difficult round because of disagreements on "critical provisions," according to Philippine panel chairman Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino. (READ: Bases access: PH, US disagree on critical provisions)
The setback is expected to delay the agreement that both sides initially wanted to finish between 4 and 6 rounds. No schedule has been set for the next round.
Gazmin said there are disagreements on the "language" of the agreement. "We have not agreed on the issues raised. We are still at the initial stages, which we call, language," he explained.
But he is confident the issues will be resolved. "We have some problems. Eventually, we will finish it. It's a give and take process," he added.
Gazmin said the Americans also have issues that the Philippine panel does not agree with. He refused to elaborate.
5 key provisions
After the 4th round of talks, Batino said they need to "conduct substantial study and examination of the issues."
"These are critical isues. Internally, the Philippine panel would need more time to study all of the aspects of these critical issues," Batino said then.
The panels have narrowed down the framework agreement to 5 key provisions, according to Batino.
2) agreed installations/AFP Facilities
3) prepositioning of defense equipment, supplies, and materiel
The panels have yet to agree on the timeframe of the agreement. Simliar military-to-military agreements between the US and other countries typically last 20 years. The Philippine panel earlier said it is looking for a "much shorter" timeframe. — Rappler.com