PH hopes US budget issue won't affect military activities
MANILA - A Philippine government official expressed hope Friday that the budgetary issue hounding the U.S. government will not affect Washington's military plans in the Philippines.
Edilberto Adan, executive director of the Philippine Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, told reporters, "It is to the advantage of the two nations to have more training and exercise activities together" as they improve "interoperability and confidence in each other."
Speaking after the closing ceremony of an annual amphibious exercise of the U.S. and Philippine armed forces, Adan said, "We're not anticipating a scaling down or lessening (of activities in the near future)."
He said a meeting between senior military officials of the two countries will take place in Hawaii next week to discuss next year's joint exercises.
The joint drills are part of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States signed in 1951, which ensures that the two countries will support each other in case of an attack by a third party.
Adan said U.S. President Barack Obama and President Benigno Aquino reaffirmed their commitment to the treaty in a phone call on Oct. 2.
The Philippines and the United States are currently negotiating for an increased rotational presence of U.S. forces in the country and for their expanded access to Philippine military facilities in light of the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Marine Commandant Maj. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo and Deputy Commandant Brig. Gen. Remigio Valdez both welcomed the proposed increased rotational presence.
"As the technology evolves, our training objective should also evolve," said Tanalgo, stressing the importance to boost the country's defense capability and ensure that the forces operate effectively in a wide range of tasks from humanitarian assistance to territorial defense.
"We are building the capacity of our personnel. So, we can build the capacities of our personnel through training and exercise with our U.S. counterparts," added Valdez.
In line with the statements made by the Philippine officials, Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy of the U.S. Marines' 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade said in a speech at the closing ceremony that the three-week amphibious exercises that involved around 2,300 U.S. and Philippine personnel "improved our readiness and our ability to respond to humanitarian assistance, disaster relief situations, and regional contingencies together."