MANILA, Philippines — Amid plans to expand its access to the country’s bases, the United States does not intend to reestablish permanent military presence in the Philippines, according to the American Embassy in Manila.
The US Embassy said in a statement given to the Philippine Daily Inquirer that ongoing negotiations seeking to open up Philippine military bases to greater US access would like to expand cooperation between the two countries in the areas of military training and disaster preparedness.
“The United States is not seeking to create or reopen any military bases here. Working with the Philippines, we seek to promote security and stability for our nations and in the region,” Embassy officials said in a statement.
Echoing earlier statements of Philippine diplomatic officials, the Embassy said an agreement on the “temporary access by US forces” would be within the framework of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, which have been governing the parameters of Philippine-US defense ties.
“The United States and the Philippines, as friends and allies, engage in mutually agreed, mutually beneficial military cooperation to enhance the training and capabilities of our forces, strengthen inter-operability for defense as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response, counter-terrorism, and non-proliferation,” said the Embassy.
“An access agreement will increase opportunities for joint military training and exercises and allow the pre-positioning of equipment and supplies enabling us to respond quickly to disasters,” the Embassy said of the plan, which has invited criticism from those rejecting US involvement in the country’s sovereign affairs.
Philippine Ambassador to Washington D.C. Jose Cuisia Jr. said Monday in Manila that negotiations continued on the base access plan, first bared by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in June. The prospect cropped up in the course of periodic bilateral consultations between the two countries, the envoy had said.
Cuisia also guaranteed the public that a base access agreement would only be sealed if deemed beneficial for both countries and would be drafted in compliance with provisions of the Philippine Constitution.
The US is the Philippines’ closest defense ally, providing financial and technical aid in bolstering the Philippine military and law enforcement agencies.
The US’ permanent military bases in the country were booted out through a Senate vote in 1992, but Washington has maintained constant defense ties with Manila, punctuated of late by its strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific.
The Philippines is meanwhile beefing up its external defense capabilities amid regional security concerns, particularly the tense disputes over the West Philippine Sea.