MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and the United States continue to hammer out an agreement on US access to military bases in the country.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
The Philippines and the US finish its second round of talks, but few details are revealed to the public.
The agreement allows increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines and wider access to Philippine military bases.
Speaking to journalists in Washington where the talks were held, the Philippine panel members enumerate “specific understanding” between the two panels.
CARLOS SORRETA, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ASST SECRETARY: The facilities used for prepositioning will remain the property of the Philippines. The Philippines will maintain primary responsibility in matters of security, whether it is an activity or a facility. Any construction that the US government may finance on a facility we approve has to be removed once the activity has been terminated. Stronger language on prohibition of prepositioning weapons that are not allowed under international law.
The Philippines sought the assistance of the US to improve the country’s minimum credible defense, in the wake of China’s aggressive behavior over disputed territories in the West PHilippine Sea.
The Philippine request also coincides with Washington’s strategy of rebalancing its security policy in the Asia Pacific.
PIO LORENZO BATINO, DEFENSE UNDERSECRETARY: They have keen interest in helping us out, because this will result in stronger alliance.
The panels give very limited information on the implementation of the agreement.
How many US troops are we talking about and how long are they staying?
What facilities will be built, and what equipment will be brought in?
Panel chairman Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino says the framework will not provide these details.
He explains each activity will be discussed separately by the US and the Philippines following the approval of the framework.
PIO LORENZO BATINO, DEFENSE UNDERSECRETARY: If and when the framework agreement will be signed, this will provide the basis for the AFP and the US to plan in accordance with the parameters set forth under the framework agreement.
US defense secretary Chuck Hagel visited Manila last week to discuss the agreement with President Aquino.
He says the US does not seek permanent bases in the Philippines.
The panels have yet to agree how temporary is temporary.
But the US has similar agreements with other countries that typically last 20 years.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Manila.