PH, US ‘working overtime’ to seal intel-sharing pact

PH, US ‘working overtime’ to seal intel-sharing pact

/ 05:38 AM April 26, 2024

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez. —Gabriel P. Lalu/ FILE PHOTO

WASHINGTON — The Philippines and the United States have agreed to fast-track the long-delayed conclusion of a crucial intelligence-sharing agreement before the end of the year, Manila’s ambassador to Washington said on Wednesday, amid shared concerns over an increasingly assertive China.

The renewed push to seal a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) within the year was one of the outcomes of a meeting between senior Filipino and American officials in Washington this week, Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said in a press briefing here.


READ: ‘We’re family’: PH, US boost intel sharing


“They’re hoping to be able to finish that before the end of the year… I think they’re working overtime because it’s very important to our defense strategy,” Romualdez told journalists participating in a reporting tour hosted by the US Embassy in Manila.

Both sides have been negotiating to conclude a GSOMIA since late 2021 but deadlines to finalize the deal have been pushed back several times. Officials have said the agreement will formalize the intelligence-sharing activities and form protocols for safeguarding top-secret information or technology transfer between the security allies.

“We have some things that we don’t have that we need to be able to put together, but I think we’ve been able to go around that so that we can speed it up because this is very important,” Romualdez said when asked about the reasons behind the delays on the deal. “I think the commitment was made that we will finish it by the end of the year,” he said.

Security roadmap

The two countries also agreed to conclude the security sector assistance roadmap by the end of the year, Romualdez said. This roadmap of Washington’s security assistance lays out the delivery [of] “priority defense platforms” for Manila over the next five to 10 years.

Another bill, introduced by US senators Bill Hagerty and Tim Kaine in early April as a draft of the Philippines Enhanced Resilience Act, seeks to modernize the Philippine military through a grant allocation totaling of $2.5 billion, to be spread over five years starting in 2025 at $500 million per year.


READ: PH-US pact on intel sharing taking shape

If passed, the bill “would greatly help” Manila beef up its defenses, the ambassador said.

Senior officials from the Philippines and the US were in Washington for the 11th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue from April 22 to 23. The meeting, according to a joint statement, serves as “the main annual platform for our two countries to discuss the full range of political, security, and economic cooperation; exchange views on current challenges and strategic priorities; and identify new collaborative initiatives.”

The meeting came two weeks after President Marcos visited Washington for the historic trilateral summit with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Marcos and Biden also met separately.

Among the new agreements reached by both sides this week is for them to “consider and develop, as appropriate, procedures and protocols on cooperative maritime law enforcement operations” and deepen cooperation on countering “foreign information manipulation.”

Battling ‘false narratives’

They also agreed to advance best practices “in strategic trade management and the clean and renewable energy transition, noting the ongoing engagement on civil nuclear cooperation and the signing of a civil nuclear cooperation agreement.”

Romualdez said the cooperation on foreign information manipulation would help push back against “false narratives every time something happens in the West Philippine Sea,” where China has repeatedly accused the Philippines of “putting up aggressive behavior” and being a “proxy” for US interests in the region.

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Philippine officials, however, dismiss the Chinese statements as a mere ploy to steer the conversation away from Beijing’s encroachment and bullying in the West Philippine Sea.

China’s claim over nearly the entire South China Sea overlaps with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. It has been invalidated by a 2016 arbitral ruling, which Beijing continues to ignore.

TAGS: Ambassador Jose Romualdez, United States

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