Philippines and US reach agreement on new security deal

Source: Today Online

Manila to get help in acquiring long-range maritime patrol aircraft to strengthen policing capabilities in South China Sea

The Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii in Subic Bay, Philippines. The new security accord will increase US ship visits and deployment of surveillance aircraft to the Philippines. Photo: Reuters

The Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii in Subic Bay, Philippines. The new security accord will increase US ship visits and deployment of surveillance aircraft to the Philippines. Photo: Reuters

MANILA — The Philippines and the United States yesterday reached an agreement on a new security accord that will allow American military forces to share local bases for maritime and humanitarian operations, a senior Philippine defence officials said.

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 defence 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.

Mr Pio Lorenzo Batino, Undersecretary of Defence 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 defence cooperation will be submitted to the President for his review,” Mr Batino said in a statement. The accord is expected to be signed during President Barack Obama’s visit to Manila on April 28-29.

A US navy ship USS Howard, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, enters Manila Harbour yesterday. The destroyer is in Manila for a routine port call with a crew of 300, including 15 Filipino-Americans. Reuters

A US navy ship USS Howard, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, enters Manila Harbour yesterday. The destroyer is in Manila for a routine port call with a crew of 300, including 15 Filipino-Americans. Reuters

The agreement will be a highlight of Mr Obama’s visit to Asia, underscoring the US “rebalance” towards Asia despite preoccupations elsewhere, including Ukraine, Iran and Syria.

“No, I don’t think there should be any doubts to the US rebalance to Asia,” said Mr Jose Cuisia, Philippine Ambassador to the United States.

Mr Cuisia said the Philippines stood to receive more US military assistance once the pact was signed. For this year, the US allocated about US$50 million (S$62.4 million) in foreign military financing, nearly double the previous year’s sum.

“It’s up to the Philippine Armed Forces to determine what they need,” Mr Cuisia said. “I think they are looking at getting newer vessels.”

He said Washington also promised to help acquire long-range maritime patrol aircraft to enable the Philippines to keep closer watch on its maritime borders in the South China Sea.

Military sources said the agreement would increase ship visits and deployment of surveillance aircraft. Last year, there were 149 US navy ship visits, up from 68 in the previous year.

Mr Batino said the agreement complied with the Philippine Constitution, meaning US forces will have no permanent presence and will not be setting up any military bases.

“United States access to and use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines facilities and areas will be at the invitation of the Philippines,” he said.

The agreement, he said, excluded the import of nuclear weapons and also had robust provisions on the protection of environment, human health and safety.

The US had two large military bases in the Philippines until November 1992. The Philippine Senate voted to evict US military forces in 1991, ending 45 years of special relations since Manila’s independence in 1946.

The US military returned in 2000 after Manila signed an agreement allowing the two sides to train and hold exercises together on conventional and counter-terrorism operations.

http://www.todayonline.com/world/asia/philippines-and-us-reach-agreement-new-security-deal


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