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PH, US tackling ‘gaps’ in defense talks

/ 05:19 AM October 04, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Negotiators for the Philippines and the United States are addressing certain “gaps” in the key provisions of a framework agreement that would allow increased US military presence in the country amid a territorial dispute with China.

What these “gaps in the critical provisions” are that need further discussions, the Philippine panel is not saying.

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But Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said that the major provisions are what make the framework agreement “unique from other agreements.”

“There’s more work needed to be done on these provisions that will define this agreement. Both parties recognize that we have to work on them with more deliberation,” Batino said.

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Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, the spokesman of the Philippine panel, said the negotiators were able to cover a large number of provisions in the proposed agreement during the last four rounds of negotations.

“However, there remain major details of the substantive issues which both sides need to iron out, and we want to make sure that this agreement would be mutually beneficial,” Sorreta said.

The provisions needing “more focused discussions” are contained in the article that covers the scope, agreed installations or Armed Forces of the Philippines facilities, prepositioning of defense equipment, supplies and materiel, ownership, and security.

Despite the “gaps,” the panels ended the recent round of negotiations “with optimism,” said Batino.

“Both sides look forward to the next round. Therefore, we are very hopeful on finding consensus within the remaining issues,” Batino said.

The US and Philippine panels ended last Wednesday a two-day fourth round of talks at the Department of National Defense (DND).—Nikko Dizon

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TAGS: Diplomacy, framework agreement, military presence, Philippines, US
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