PH to announce talks on stronger US presence

Posted at 08/11/2013 12:28 PM

Gov't panel created to discuss with US counterparts

MANILA -- The Philippines is set to begin negotiations with the United States for stronger military presence in the country.

In an advisory, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it will announce Monday the start of the negotiations with the goal of having a “possible framework agreement on [an] increased rotational presence.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin will be present. They will also introduce the members of the government panel.

The US has been the country’s major ally in fending off China’s bullying in the disputed seas.

The US has consistently issued statements of its support of the Philippines’ move to bring to an arbitral panel the sea dispute.

The Philippines is also one of the US’ allies in fighting terrorism. More than a week ago, Washington issued a global security alert against Al Qaeda attacks.

The country was beset with bombings last week, although the local network of Al Qaeda has not taken responsibility over these.

Several hundred US Special Forces troops have been on short term deployments in the southern Philippines since 2002 to help train local troops fighting Islamic militants.

"If and when there is agreement on the access, then there will be equipment coming in from the (United) States," Gazmin said last June 27.

"Modalities for the increased rotational presence are right now being examined. One modality is the conduct of high-value, high-impact exercises," he said, without elaborating.

Gazmin, however, emphasized the plan would not see any new bases or a permanent US presence in the Philippines. – with reports from Agence France Presse