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Phl, US chart new military direction for 21st century

Jose Katigbak - The Philippine Star

WASHINGTON – The Philippines and the United States are charting a new direction for their militaries in a 21st century security partnership to address shared security concerns, respond to natural and man-made disasters and confront transnational threats, a joint statement said.

“We expect a robust, balanced and responsive security partnership manifested in mutually beneficial bilateral military training, exercises and operations, provided by an increased rotational and temporary presence of US military forces from Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-controlled facilities,” the statement said.                  

The statement signed by AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty as the foundation of Phl-US relationship which must remain responsive and modernized to address shared security challenges.

As the alliance adapts to modern challenges, defense cooperation efforts must focus on maintaining a 21st century security partnership, stability in Southeast Asia and bilateral interoperability and readiness, said the 2013 Joint Chiefs of Defense Vision Statement for Security Cooperation signed by the generals on Thursday when they met at the Pentagon.

The statement released on Saturday by the Philippine embassy in Washington said both countries were resolved to address modern challenges bilaterally and through multilateral institutions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “in a manner that protects the interests of all who value unimpeded commerce and transiting through the maritime domain, while deterring those who would restrict it or act in a manner that might place it at risk.”

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is due in Manila on Aug. 29 and is scheduled to meet with President Aquino and senior government officials to talk about current negotiations between both countries for a framework agreement that would allow US forces to operate on Philippine military bases and in Philippine territory and waters, a Pentagon official said.

His visit in the course of a four-nation tour of Southeast Asia is expected to give added impetus to the negotiations, military officials in Washington said.

The 600-word vision statement by Bautista and Dempsey made no direct reference to China or the South China Sea most of which is being claimed by the Chinese, inducing anger among its neighbors.

It said the Philippines and the United States shared a common interest in maintaining freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce and transit of people and goods across the seas.

 â€œWe are committed to the principles upheld in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we subscribe to a rules-based approach in resolving competing claims in maritime areas by peaceful means – within the framework of international law including those reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” it said.

The statement said the Phl-US Mutual Defense Board/Security Engagement Board would coordinate training and exercises enabling faster response to contingency requirements such as natural or man-made disasters, allowing for responsible provision of resources and improving the capacity of the AFP to support additional capabilities.

“Sixty years on, this critical alliance (Mutual Defense Treaty) has never been stronger and will continue to expand in the 21st century as we chart this new direction for our militaries,” the statement added.

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS BAUTISTA AND DEMPSEY DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL EMMANUEL BAUTISTA AND GEN MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY PHILIPPINES AND THE UNITED STATES SOUTHEAST ASIA STATEMENT
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