'US troops' presence needs PH approval'
WASHINGTON – The Philippines and the United States have agreed the increased rotational presence of US troops and equipment in local military facilities will be temporary and where and what can be pre-positioned will be subject to prior approval by Manila, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said.
“Both the Philippines and the US panels share the understanding that the American troops will not establish a permanent military presence in our country. That was clear during the discussion,” said Batino, chief Philippine negotiator, after the second round of talks for more US forces in the Philippines.
“From the beginning of the talks, we communicated to our counterparts that they could not establish a permanent presence in the Philippines in accordance with our Constitution,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, panel spokesperson, said, “Any approval will contain specific areas and time for the temporary activity.”
During the talks, Sorreta said the two teams of negotiators were able to establish “specific understandings” on the following:
Facilities used for pre-positioning remain the property of the Philippines; the Philippines maintains the primary responsibility and authority in matters of security; any pre-positioning or activities will not violate Philippine environmental laws; any construction will have to be removed by the US once the approved activity is completed; and stronger language on non-prepositioning of prohibited weapons.
Sorreta said the Philippines and the US were able to flesh out some details on humanitarian aid and disaster relief, including discussions on how training, equipment and materiel for maritime domain awareness would be used for humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts.
A number of provisions in the proposed framework agreement, however, are subject to further discussion, including the substantive issue of duration, he said.
“For the Americans, they typically have agreements like these that have a duration of 20 years. Right now, the Philippine delegation is looking at a much shorter duration,” Sorreta said. – With Jaime Laude