PH, US defense deal still being finalized

Posted at 04/22/14 1:53 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The agreement on enhanced defense cooperation between the Philippines and the United States is still being finalized, Malacanang said Monday, a week before the state visit of US President Barack Obama to Manila.

In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the last update from the Philippine panel was that “it’s undergoing inter-agency vetting from both sides.”

Coloma said this was because the defense agreement, which would give the US forces increased access and rotational presence in the country, would have implementation aspects that would also define the roles of specific agencies of the government.

“So it is important for them to have a say whether (the provisions in the agreement) are in accordance with law... There are implementing aspects that affect agencies of government across the executive department and we will have to get their sign off before we approve the final draft of the agreement,” he added.

He reiterated that the agreement and Obama’s visit on April 28 to 29 should not be linked and “therefore, there is really no deadline or pressure.”

He said the country’s interest would have to be upheld, whatever the contents of the agreement may be.

The Philippines and the US have long been strategic partners and defense and security are important aspects of this relationship.

As regards Obama’s visit, Coloma said the Department of Foreign Affairs would announce the complete itinerary of Obama, and everything is being prepared, from the airport to the event venues and media coverage.