Phl, US resume talks on troops' presence
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2013 - 5:56pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and the United States (US) resume Friday the negotiations on a policy allowing increased rotational presence of American troops in the country.

The second round of talks between the US and Philippine panels  will be held at the US Department of Defense in Pentagon, Washington, DC.

Philippine panel member Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino said they hope to have a general discussion on the types of activities to be undertaken by Filipino and American troops.

He said negotiators are expected to continue discussing matters touched during the first round of negotiations last Aug. 14.

“As we discuss these, we want to stress again to our counterparts that any framework agreement must be consistent with our Constitution and there should be mutuality in benefits,” Batino said.

During the first round of talks, the two panels discussed key features of the agreement like the working title, preamble, objectives and scope of discussions that would give US troops and equipment temporary access to Philippine military camps.

Officials claim that providing temporary access to US troops will help the country achieve what they called “a minimum credible defense.”

Other elements to be included in the agreement are the implementing arrangements, prepositioning of supplies and materiel, security, ownership, protection of the environment, utilities and communications, procedures on the resolution of disputes, and duration and termination.

The Philippine panel is led by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta and is composed of Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

The US panel, meanwhile, is led by State Department senior negotiator for military agreements Eric John and composed of  State Department Attorney Advisor Elizabeth Jones, Brig. Gen. Joaquin Malavet, and Capt. Greg Bart.

The Philippines and the US have adopted a policy of increased rotational presence amid China’s efforts to shore up its presence in the West Philippine Sea, the subject of a territorial row in the region.

While the Philippines and US have yet to finalize the activities to be covered by the deal, officials have vowed to push for activities aimed at improving security and disaster response capabilities.

Militant groups have criticized the Philippine government for adopting the increased rotational presence policy, saying this would violate the country’s sovereignty.

Critics also raised concerns that the access agreement would reduce the Philippines into “a “giant weapons depot for the US forces.” They also believe that the US would not side with the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China.

Negotiations, however, have given assurances that the talks would be guided by the principles of strict compliance with the Philippine Constitution, laws, and jurisprudence, Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops in Philippine territory, non-exclusivity of use of facilities by the US side, and mutuality of benefits. 

DEFENSE ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAYMUND QUILOP DEFENSE UNDERSECRETARY PIO BATINO DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ERIC JOHN FILIPINO AND AMERICAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARLOS SORRETA GREG BART JOAQUIN MALAVET JUSTICE UNDERSECRETARY FRANCISCO BARAAN PHILIPPINE
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