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Phl vows to deny access to US assets with nuclear weapons

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine panel negotiating with the US on the increased rotational presence of American troops will deny access to US assets carrying nuclear weapons and will assert Philippine authority over the facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, Philippine panel head, said mere suspicion that a US asset has nuclear weapons is enough to deny access.

“If we suspect or believe that the ship (that) they ask for permission to enter has nuclear weapon, then we have the right to deny it,” he said.

“We actually don’t have to see it (or) actually touch the weapon.”

The Philippine and US panels agreed to respect the constitutional prohibition against nuclear weapons during the first round of negotiations last Wednesday, Sorreta said.

Speaking to reporters, Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino, a panel member, said the framework agreement on the increased rotational presence will provide an opportunity to insist on clearer safeguards for national concerns.

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“There should be full control of Philippine authority over AFP-owned facilities,” he said. “We will insist that there will be no areas exclusive to the US troops.”

Sources have cited instances when Filipino generals were not allowed entry to the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) headquarters in Zamboanga City.

US troops operate powerful communications equipment in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, sources added.

Journalists covering a congressional probe on the alleged permanent presence of US troops in the area had been barred from taking video footage of the headquarters, sources said.

The US panel led by State Department senior negotiator Eric John presented their proposed text of the framework agreement last Wednesday.

Batino said they were able to emphasize the significance of important concerns like Philippine sovereignty, full Philippine control and authority, mutuality of benefits, and non-permanence of US troops.

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