Thursday, August 29, 2013

DFA: 2nd round of PHL-US talks to focus on joint military programs

From GMA News (Aug 29): DFA: 2nd round of PHL-US talks to focus on joint military programs

The second round of talks in Pentagon on Friday (Manila time) between the US and the Philippines over the US forces' increased rotational presence in the archipelago will focus on joint military programs. 

In a joint statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense said the Philippine panel will “push for joint activities with the US that will boost maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and improve humanitarian aid and disaster relief.”

During the first round of talks, Manila and Washington vowed to maintain freedom of navigation within the Philippine territory and expand American military presence in the Philippines.

The Philippines has accused China of endangering Asian peace and maritime commerce through Beijing's claims over most of the South China Sea, including areas within the Philippine's exclusive economic zone, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

Main elements to be discussed

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Bantino, one of the members of the Philippine Panel, said “The types of activities that we want to do with the US will be threshed out in our talks.”

“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,” Bantino also said in the joint statement.

Other “main elements” in the framework that would still be discussed include: implementing arrangements, prepositioning of supplies and materiel, security, ownership, protection of the environment, utilities and communications, procedures, resolution of disputes, and duration and termination.

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

On the other hand, the first round of talks in Pentagon last August 14 was met with anti-US protest actions in Quezon City and Manila.

Earlier, feisty Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the government must secure Senate approval before the Philippine government to take actions to increase the presence of American troops in the country.

"The Senate's concurrence is indispensable. To the Department of Foreign Affairs, do not try any tricks. I am right here," the senator said.

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