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Palace defends access plan

US troops’ use of PH bases to be temporary

By , Nikko Dizon and Norman Bordadora

Malacañang on Friday defended a plan to give the United States, Japan and other allies access to military bases in the Philippines, saying the country was free to do anything within its territory.

But the plan, which coincides with the United States’ “pivot” to Asia, a strategy that would see 60 percent of America’s warships shifting to the region by the end of the decade, has yet to be approved by President Benigno Aquino III, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

Several senators acknowledged that the Philippines needs the assistance the United States and other allies can bring by their presence in the country, but they said the proposed access agreements under the plan would need Senate approval.

The Senate voted to expel US military bases from the Philippines in 1991, but ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 1999 to allow US forces access to the country through joint exercises with Philippine forces.

No longer visiting

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the 12 senators who voted to expel the US military bases, said the VFA allowed only a temporary stay of US forces in the country.

“They cannot establish any military base in the Philippines,” Enrile said.

“Temporary or whatever term they use, no military bases. If it assumes a certain degree of permanence or stability, then it’s no longer visiting forces,” he added.

Enrile said that when the Senate ratified the VFA in 1999, “what we agreed upon is a rule [under which] American soldiers [will stay in] the Philippines only temporarily.”

But if the access plan would allow them to stay in the Philippines for an unlimited period, “[t]hat would be an issue before the Supreme Court,” Enrile said.

“As visiting forces, they can come and refuel. But if they will put down their fuel here and all their ammunition dumps and all their armaments and whatever equipment they would need for war, [that may] come [within] the prohibition in the Constitution,” he said.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Thursday that the Philippines will not build new air and naval bases, but simply allow the United States, Japan and other allies access to its military bases under the plan to roll back China’s expansive claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The 1987 Constitution prohibits foreign military bases in the country.

Valte said at a press briefing in the Palace yesterday that the plan was designed to put into operation the agreement between the Philippines and the United States to increase visits of US troops and warships to the Philippines as part of the US rebalancing strategy.

China is in our garage

The plan should not be a cause of concern for other countries, she said.

“Whatever we do within our territory… is perfectly within our rights,” Valte told reporters.

Defending the plan from criticism yesterday, Gazmin said the Philippines needed allies like the United States to help defend its territory and sovereignty against an “oppressive neighbor.”

“We cannot stand alone. We need allies,” Gazmin said.

“If we do not (seek allies), we will be bullied by bigger forces and that is what is happening now. China is already there, staying in our territory.”

Gazmin was referring to the presence of Chinese ships at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a rich fishing ground in the West Philippine Sea west of Zambales province, and near Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), in another part of the sea west of Palawan Island and also within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“What will we do? We cannot attack. We are just going after them in court. But in spite of that, they are still there. They do not want to leave,” he said.

“So what will we do? Should we just wait until they are at our very doorstep? They are already in our garage, right?” Gazmin said.

 

Two Plus Two meet

Gazmin explained that the plan for an access agreement being prepared by his department was a result of last year’s “Two Plus Two” meeting between him and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and then US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then US State Secretary Hillary Clinton.

The meeting took place as the Philippines was locked in a tense maritime standoff with China at Panatag Shoal.

Gazmin said the increased rotational presence of US forces in the Philippines was discussed during that meeting.

“This means that with more participants in our exercises, they will need access (to the bases) for their equipment,” he said.

Under the arrangement, he said, the United States would be able to park in the Philippines planes it would use in the military exercises to save on turnaround time and fuel instead of flying them to and from US bases in Guam, Hawaii, or Okinawa in Japan.

The United States would also be allowed to bring new military equipment for the exercises if and when given access to Philippine bases, Gazmin said.

Advanced technology

Such an arrangement would expose the Philippine military to advanced US military technology, such as the P-3 Orion spy plane, he said.

“We don’t have that. If they refuel their new jets here, we can be given the chance to study or see that kind of new technology,” he said.

Gazmin gave the assurance that the presence of US forces and their equipment in Philippine military bases will be temporary.

“They will stay only for the duration of the exercise,” he said.

The defense department’s lawyers are discussing the preparation of the access agreement, including the language, Gazmin said.

“We may find out that it is already part of the Visiting Forces Agreement. So it is undergoing careful study by our lawyers,” he said, adding there was no time frame for the completion of the draft.

He said the access agreement would be submitted to the Senate if it turned out to be “an agreement beyond” the VFA.

Base, airport

Gazmin said the former US naval base in Subic, Zambales province, was among the bases being considered to be covered by the access agreement.

Also being considered, he said, is the Lumbia airport in Cagayan de Oro if the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) would allow its use by the defense establishment.

Gazmin said Japan was welcome to have joint military exercises with the Philippines. But Japanese troops cannot step on Philippine soil without a visiting forces agreement between the two countries, he said.

VFA purview

Sen. Loren Legarda, head of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said allowing US forces access to Philippine military bases may be allowed, “but strictly under the purview of the VFA.”

“The VFA will continue to be enforced to ensure that US military presence remains within the bounds of the VFA framework,” Legarda said.

“The same is true with other countries [with which] we have existing Status of Visiting Forces Agreements ratified by the Senate,” she said.

As to whether the access agreements with the United States and other Philippine allies should be ratified by the Senate, Legarda said: “As it is, there are joint exercises and initiatives and to a certain access to our facilities allowed but according to well-defined terms. Under this scenario, there is no need for Senate approval.”

‘Doomed’

Reacting to news reports about the Philippine plan on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the strategy was a “path of confrontation” and it would be “doomed.”

Wang said countries that “try to reinforce their poorly grounded claims (in the West Philippine Sea) through the help of external forces” would find the strategy a “miscalculation not worth the effort.”

In the face of Beijing’s growing military might, Washington last year decided to “rebalance” toward the Asia-Pacific region and deploy 60 percent of the Navy’s fleet to the Pacific by 2020.

The Obama administration has helped the Philippines upgrade its military, but so far has given the country only two secondhand cutters.

The Philippines and China remain in a standoff at Panatag Shoal, with Chinese ships occupying the shoal and the Philippines taking the dispute to the United Nations for arbitration.


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Tags: Japan , Juan Ponce-Enrile , Military Bases , Philippines , United States , US Military Bases , US troops , Visiting Forces Agreement

  • neverwint3r

    with china becoming increasingly aggressive and beliigerent, kelangan talaga closer relationships with our allies, particularly US, japan and australia. give them bases if needed, and change the outdated constitution.

    sino pa ba tutulong, satin russia o mga komunista? ang nagrereklamo lang naman dyan mga npa at militante na wala namang naitulong at nagawang kabutihan sa bansa. sinasabotahe pa nila ekonomya natin, ambushing police and military, collecting revolutionary taxes, kidanapping foreigners, burning factories. kaya tuloy it’s hard to attract foreign investments, and therefore lack of jobs and declining exports in the country.

    kapag ba ininvade tayo ng china, are these militants and these npa going to defend the philippines? thye will welcome the chinese with open arms,. they are traitors to the country.

    millions of pnoys are working and have made the US, japan and australia their home and go there for jobs. even if you put this in a referendum, 99% will approve of foreign military bases.

    • Crazy_horse101010

      the other 1 percent are in this forum. ranting again

  • nsaneindmembrane

    i believe US presence will help in some kind to intimidate China to do foolish things.

  • Ako_Hiking

    Having good relation with the US is all good but the Philippines should also considering improving relations with other nations as well. As friendly as the Philippines are with the US the Philippines are in bad terms with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia/Sabah and China.

  • Paolo Esguerra

    This move by the Aquino govt only increases the perception that Aquino is a weaking and not worthy of respect by the rest of the world. It will only embolden China to step up its affront to our sovereignty over the islands at the west Philippine seas.

    • mave

      So sino yong karespi respito yong nanakop ng teritoryo? Bulag ka ba talagang hindi kaya ng Pilipinas lumaban ng mag isa eh, eh di gawin ninyo yong 9 dash line ninyo gawin nyong 18 dash line…hehe

    • NE5560TOR

      Of course we are weak. You did not know?

    • Marcos5

      Embolden China is understatement. Communist China’s behavior and audacity to take what is ours is unacceptable and it applies to every free nation they should know better since the true territorial borders of China is inside the Great Wall.
      Chinese plot of 9 Dash line is an absurd imagination of their dear leaders in Beijing claiming the whole seas no one can pass thru including Air and Sea domain all the way to your coastlines.

      “Every Citizen (should) be a soldier. This was the case of the Greeks and Romans and must be that of every Free Nation”
      Manong Thomas Jefferson, 1813

  • NE5560TOR

    I am a Filipino Chinese but I condemn in the stongest way the 9 dash principle of china whereby they claim practically the whole of the west Philippine sea. China is now a bully and i am going to relate it as a rich neighbor who is insesitive to its neighbors. No wonder they only have few friends in asIa. Their claim is baseless. It is just that they were civilized earlier with boats that can traverse high seas and where able to see these islands. But everyone knows that you must have possession or occupation to claim ownership and they never did and when they joined the united nation and for purpose of peaceful co existence, it came up with withUNCLOS which china signed and now they want us to base the boundary on the islands they just happen to pass by and see because they were civilized ahead of us. We should unite against a bully like china and we should offer every inch our land to any one who can protect us I am a Chinese by blood but it insults my intelligence if some one is to claim a place they never exercised sovereignty and its very ironic that someone is the land where my ancestors came from. Just look at the map, there is no way these shoals and islands are owned by china unless of course one is blind.

    • jinx

      I’m sure you’re much more a Filipino than freemont, phtaxpayer, and paolo esguerra. They’re just good at recycling those old commie arguments which really don’t hold water. You make more sense than them pea-brains.

    • Pedring2

      Thank you NE5560TOR for siding with us. Fight with us and freedom to live in peace with us will be yours. Are there more of you?

  • opinyonlangpo

    The agents of china in the Philippine government starts to surface. So what are the Filipinos going to do now? The senate is very quiet when China is slowly occupying Philippine territories. Now that Philippines starts to set up its defenses, some officials are against it. Just wondering how much they got for this betrayal, Judas got his thirty pieces of gold. They probably got more.

  • PHtaxpayer

    This is blatantly wrong. US and Japan attacked the PH in 1899 and 1941 killing more than a million innocent people, stole our natural resources and wrecked our national identity up to this day. China is merely occupying some outer islands and we consider her a much bigger threat than the US and Japan? Big mistake.

    We should fight to kick out all foreign forces from our territory but do it on our own. You cannot allow two colonial masters to gain a foothold in the guise of defending against one of our neighbors.

    • http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2013/275/f/f/joker_arroyo__santiago__release_of_dap_funds_i_by_lightisi-d6p118x.jpg Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro

      your arguments are hilariously defective

    • Marcos5

      Kick yourself in the nuts. Chinese Mining Firms are presently wrecking havoc in the Philippines from Camarines Sur to Benguet. They are poisoning our land and waters they are extracting minerals gold, copper, silver, chromite, nickel, cobalt etc. our pristine beaches and land will be polluted and devastated due to carcinogenic mercury. It will contaminate our drinking waters, food and will be high in arsenic like what they are doing know in Africa and Myanmar.
      Time to kick them out and the politicians who are conniving with the enemy thru Greed.

    • Pedring2

      PHtaxpayer = 50-cent party member. Ignore him.

    • Crazy_horse101010

      good luck with that one if you live in the past you will miss the present and you will never have a future. still living 100 years ago. arent we comrade

    • mave

      Whahaha kalalabas lang yata nito sa time machine…

  • Marcos5

    The Philippine Military will now also have acces to train inside Japanese Submarines for first procurement fast track that will enhance nations capability on deterrence capability.

    P3 orions, F18, F16 will be for the PAF coincide with the procurement of FA-50 from Korea.

    Technology,training and transfer will coincide with the procurement in both ways it will help and attain full speed modernization of the AFP. Together with allies they will work hard and support shoulder to shoulder to maintain peace and stability freedom of navigation in the Asean region.

  • http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2013/275/f/f/joker_arroyo__santiago__release_of_dap_funds_i_by_lightisi-d6p118x.jpg Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro

    kill the chinese!

  • nuxun

    chinese already in our garage? haller! they are already even in our markets reproducing like flies and selling all kinds of stuff that are slowly killing our children due to its toxic content. hell, they have already been in our mountains since time immemorial robbing us of our precious minerals leaving toxic chemicals in our lands! they transferred all their shabu laboratories all around the country as if they own every PNP personnel! all these are happening in our face for a very long time now — thanks to the BOI guys with open arms and open legs who take bribes as if there’s no more tomorrow from these freakin aliens just so these freakin aliens will have an indefinite stay!! pweh!

  • Simpleng_ofw

    Lumang tugtugin…… gutom ka pa rin hanggang ngayon.

  • jamesgeorge

    Schizoprenic! You need a doctor! Seriously, you know where you are?

  • lex

    Estupido ka! Anu bang pakialam mo? Mas mabuting maubos (yan ay kung mauubos, pero malamang INTSIK mauubos) ang Pilipinas ng lumalaban sa gera kaysa maubos sa pagkuha ng at panlalamang ng CHINA!

  • Pedring2

    Here is the foul-mouthed mongoloid again! Demon, be gone!

  • Simpleng_ofw

    Unfounded fears by a hungry pervert.

  • paitoon717

    hahaha, the argument of a commie. If China will choose to use nuke then the end result is that China will be obliterated from the map

  • jamesgeorge

    Schizoprenic! You need a doctor!

  • MrAssimo

    Ay tama ka… may tama ka.. Mas mauuna pa ang pinas kesa sa Taiwan dahil mas malapit ang pinas kaysa sa taiwan. Ang galing mo rin ano? bakit gusto mong unahin ang pinas? Eh kasi nandyan ka sa TAEwan. HIYANG-HIYA NAMAN AKO SAYO NO !

  • dagohoy620

    Jseesus, kindly correct your tenses and choice of words first! It’s difficult to understand what you’re trying to say! It seems you’re just in this to disparage all Filipinos for your own personal thing, whatever it is!

  • Cool LahgotzMO

    YOU’RE TALKING RUBBISH ! GO BRUSH YOUR TEETH YOU STINKY PIECE OF SH1T !.

  • Crazy_horse101010

    oh goody the village idiot speaks monkeyese. go to china but im sure they dont want a moron either to big a embarrassment

  • Pedring2

    Hoy, deport yourself before we nab you.



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