PNoy meets top PNP officials ahead of Obama visit

Posted at 04/14/14 12:11 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III arrived at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Monday morning to meet with the top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Aquino arrived at the PNP headquarters at 10:14 a.m. His convoy passed through the camp's Santolan gate.

Members of the media were not told about the agenda of the meeting, but initial reports said the meeting was likely to tackle the preparations for the visit of US President Barack Obama in the Philippines on April 28 and 29.

However, PNP spokesperson Sr. Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac later said the agenda of the closed-door meeting, which lasted a little over two hours, was "mainly administrative matters."

He said the meeting covered such topics as the PNP modernization program as well as the security for upcoming international events like the World Economic Forum and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Sindac said security preparations for the upcoming visit of Obama was also discussed but only "in passing."

Philippine Ambassador to US Jose Cuisia earlier confirmed the date of Obama's arrival in Manila.

Cuisia said Obama will meet with Aquino to discuss defense and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges, among others.

Obama's Philippine trip is part of his four-country Asian tour. He is also set to visit South Korea, Japan and Malaysia.

The US leader was supposed to visit the Philippines in October 2013 but it was cancelled due to the US government shutdown.

Obama's visit to the Philippines comes as the latter is embroiled in a simmering row with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The US has for several times reiterated its commitment to its defense treaty with the Philippines, amid China's growing assertiveness in the disputed sea.

The two oldest allies in the Asia-Pacific region had been negotiating a new military deal for nearly eight months to increase US rotational presence in the Philippines and improve its former colony's defense capability.

The pact will also raise the level of protection against China, which has strengthened its naval presence in disputed areas in the South China Sea after seizing control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

Pio Lorenzo Batino, undersecretary of defense and chair of the Philippine negotiating panel, said both sides had reached a "consensus on key points" during an eighth round of talks.

"The draft provisions on key points of an enhanced defense cooperation will be submitted to the president for his review," Batino said in a statement. The accord is expected to be signed during Obama's April 28-29 visit to Manila.

The agreement will be a highlight of Obama's visit to Asia, underscoring the US "rebalance" to Asia despite preoccupations elsewhere, including Ukraine, Iran and Syria. -- Reports from Edwin Sevidal, dzMM; Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News ; With Reuters