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Palace says there’s no rush to increase US military presence

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Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—There’s no rush to arrive at an agreement allowing increased US military presence in the Philippines in time for US President Barack Obama’s visit in Manila later this month, a Malacañang spokesperson said Saturday.

 

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Abigail Valte, one of President Benigno Aquino’s spokespersons, said the Chief Executive wants to make sure such an agreement would conform with the Philippine Constitution.

 

“There is no deadline.  At least, the instruction of the President is just to make sure that everything is laid out well and nothing would be overlooked. So the panel that represents the country has this in mind,” Valte said over the state-run dzRB radio.

According to Valte, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, a member of the Philippine panel negotiating with the US side on the new agreement, has reported that “the draft provisions and the key points will be submitted for internal review by the Philippine side and, of course, consultations will also continue.”

 

“So this will have to be presented to the President before the next step. So we will wait for that,” Valte addeed.

 

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Asked for a categorical answer to speculation that the agreement was being hastened so it could be signed while Obama is in Manila, Valte said, “At least not for the Philippine side.”

 

“The panel has always been cognizant of the concerns that have been raised by the President and everytime they face a round of negotiations, they consult with the President,” Valte sad.

 

Valte said the President has insisted to the panel that the new agreement be “within the 1987 Constitution and has to be within the existing framework that we have.”

 

On whether enhanced defense cooperation between the Philippines and the US would benefit the country in its territorial dispute with China, Valte said, “It’s more really of looking at [how] it can be of help to our country, as well as to the United States.”

 

“You know, we tend to look at this in a holistic manner and not in view of particular issues but really, on how it can help improve our strategic partnership with the United States,” she added.

 

Asked to comment on the suggestion that increased US military presence in the Philippines would increase tension with China, Valte said, “We won’t comment on that at the time being because everything is still under way.”

 

Batino, in a statement on Friday, said the latest round of negotiations has brought both sides “much closer to finding full consensus, and the draft provisions on key points of an enhanced defense cooperation will be submitted to the President for his review.”

 

The country’s ambassador to the US, Jose Cuisia Jr., had expressed optimism that the negotiations would be completed by the time Obama visits.

 

Batino said that a consensus was reached on “key provisions and modalities that would reflect, among others, full respect for Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops and no US military basing in the Philippines and a prohibition against weapons of mass destruction.”

 

The draft agreement was reported to provide the US with access to Philippine military bases and that the use by the American military of  Philippines “facilities and areas will be at the invitation of the Philippines and with full respect for the Philippine Constitution and Philippine laws.”

 

The agreement would also reportedly state that the US would “not establish a permanent military presence or base in the territory of the Philippines.”

 

The Philippine Constitution prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases in the archipelago.

 

“Furthermore, the United States has agreed that any equipment and material that the US military may bring into the country ‘shall not include nuclear weapons’,” Batino’s statement said.

 

RELATED STORY

Obama, Aquino to tackle defense, China during state visit

 

Abigail Valte, one of President Benigno Aquino’s spokespersons, said the Chief Executive wants to make sure such an agreement would conform with the Philippine Constitution.

 

“There is no deadline.  At least, the instruction of the President is just to make sure that everything is laid out well and nothing would be overlooked. So the panel that represents the country has this in mind,” Valte said over the state-run dzRB radio.

According to Valte, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, a member of the Philippine panel negotiating with the US side on the new agreement, has reported that “the draft provisions and the key points will be submitted for internal review by the Philippine side and, of course, consultations will also continue.”

 

“So this will have to be presented to the President before the next step. So we will wait for that,” Valte addeed.

 

Asked for a categorical answer to speculation that the agreement was being hastened so it could be signed while Obama is in Manila, Valte said, “At least not for the Philippine side.”

 

“The panel has always been cognizant of the concerns that have been raised by the President and everytime they face a round of negotiations, they consult with the President,” Valte sad.

 

Valte said the President has insisted to the panel that the new agreement be “within the 1987 Constitution and has to be within the existing framework that we have.”

 

On whether enhanced defense cooperation between the Philippines and the US would benefit the country in its territorial dispute with China, Valte said, “It’s more really of looking at [how] it can be of help to our country, as well as to the United States.”

 

“You know, we tend to look at this in a holistic manner and not in view of particular issues but really, on how it can help improve our strategic partnership with the United States,” she added.

 

Asked to comment on the suggestion that increased US military presence in the Philippines would increase tension with China, Valte said, “We won’t comment on that at the time being because everything is still under way.”

 

Batino, in a statement on Friday, said the latest round of negotiations has brought both sides “much closer to finding full consensus, and the draft provisions on key points of an enhanced defense cooperation will be submitted to the President for his review.”

 

The country’s ambassador to the US, Jose Cuisia Jr., had expressed optimism that the negotiations would be completed by the time Obama visits.

 

Batino said that a consensus was reached on “key provisions and modalities that would reflect, among others, full respect for Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops and no US military basing in the Philippines and a prohibition against weapons of mass destruction.”

 

The draft agreement was reported to provide the US with access to Philippine military bases and that the use by the American military of  Philippines “facilities and areas will be at the invitation of the Philippines and with full respect for the Philippine Constitution and Philippine laws.”

 

The agreement would also reportedly state that the US would “not establish a permanent military presence or base in the territory of the Philippines.”

 

The Philippine Constitution prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases in the archipelago.

 

“Furthermore, the United States has agreed that any equipment and material that the US military may bring into the country ‘shall not include nuclear weapons’,” Batino’s statement said.

 

RELATED STORY
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/101423/obama-aquino-to-tackle-defense-china-during-state-visit

 

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TAGS: agreement, Barack Obama, Benigno Aquino, Defense, military base, Philippines, Security, US
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