MANILA, Philippines—The high-level talks between the Philippines and the United States on expanding Washington’s military presence in the country will be held on April 30 in the US capital, according to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.
Del Rosario on Tuesday told the Inquirer “the scheduled date of the 2 + 2 meeting in Washington, DC is April 30.”
Aside from Del Rosario, the Philippines will be represented at the meeting by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
The other side will be composed of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
In a text message, Del Rosario said they were still “finalizing the agenda.”
“But I would expect a comprehensive discussion of important bilateral areas of cooperation, especially since this is the first time we will participate in this format,” he said.
First time ever
“We will be guided by having the United States as one of two strategic partners for the Philippines—the other being Japan—and also by having the United States as our only treaty ally,” Del Rosario said.
DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said “this meeting will be the first time ever the Philippine foreign and defense secretaries together will be meeting with their American counterparts.”
“We are readjusting and fine-tuning our bilateral engagement in view of changes in our regional and global environment,” he said.
“It is our goal to boost our trade and investment relations with the United States,” he added.
Hernandez said “the Philippines and the US are also exploring new modes of cooperation that would enable the Philippines to achieve minimum credible defense capabilities.”
Early in February, Del Rosario told this paper the meeting was tentatively scheduled for late March, adding that he had not heard otherwise from the US side.
On Jan. 27, Manila and Washington issued a joint statement following the completion of their second bilateral strategic dialogue in the US capital, where they looked forward to continuing their high-level consultation at a joint ministerial meeting among Del Rosario, Gazmin, Clinton and Panetta.
The two sides also highlighted what they referred to as “upcoming opportunities for further high-level engagements,” including last month’s visit to the Philippines of US Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro.
During their Jan. 26-27 dialogue, the two allies reaffirmed their “commitment to fulfill the vision of the 2011 Manila Declaration through an invigorated and expanded alliance capable of addressing 21st century challenges.”
Originally posted: 8:53 pm | Tuesday, March 20th, 2012