PH, US haggling over length of stay of troops
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines will not rush negotiations with the US for a military-to-military agreement in time for its possible signing when US President Barack Obama visits the country in April, said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
"Let's wait for the panels to finish the negotiations. Hopefully, magandang issue 'yun pagdating niya, may pirmahan tayo. Pero bakit natin mamadaliin kung meron pang hindi pagkakaunawaan? Bakit natin bibilisan (It will be good if we're able to sign when he visits. But why are we going to rush it?)," Gazmin said on Thursday, February 20.
The Philippines and the US will hold the 6th round of negotiations in March, a month before Obama is scheduled to visit the Philippines. Talk is rife that signing will happen then.
The panels are still haggling, said Gazmin. The panels are taking their time discussing language and the length of time the US will be allowed "temporary" access to Philippine military bases.
"Sa mga linguahe at saka yung mga issues na gaano katagal sila dito. Parang nagtatawaran ba," Gazmin said. (They're discussing the language and settling issues on how long they will stay here. They're haggling.)
Typical military agreements between the US and another country last for 20 years. The Philippine panel earlier said it is looking for a "much shorter" timeframe.
Otherwise, Gazmin said the talks are going well. "Let's not pre-empt it. The talks for increased rotational presence are going smoothly. They're discussing the language so by the time they reach agreement on the various issues, they can already sit down and write it," Gazmin said.
There has been a recent shake-up in the Philippine panel.
Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Soreta has left the panel and he was replaced by Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya and Ambassador to Vienna Lourdes Yparraguirre. (READ: Problems in the US-PH bases access deal?)
The Philippines sought the help of the US, a defense treaty ally, as maritime tensions escalate in the South China Sea (West Philippines Sea). US officials and key military officials have recently stepped up their rhetoric against China's aggression. (WATCH: Expect stronger US message vs China aggression)
Gazmin said 3 Chinese coastguard ships are still occupying the Scarborough Shoal, a rocky sandbar off the coast of Zambales. But at least 7 Filipino fishing vessels are also operating in the area.
Gazmin said some Filipino vessels were previously harassed by Chinese vessels, but this has supposedly stopped. — Rappler.com
Round 1 held in Manila: PH, US begin talks on access bases
Round 2 and 3 held in the US: Panel allows US 'construction in PH bases and 2nd round of talks for US access to PH bases
Round 4 in Manila: PH, US disagree on 'critical provisions' and PH to press 'equal access to facilities in bases deal
December informal talks in US: PH, US resume bases access talks after impasse
Round 5: PH, US bases access talks resume January 30 and PH, US 'close' to signing military deal