Monday, September 30, 2013

Obama visit seen to boost PH-US defense partnership

From the Manila Times (Sep 29): Obama visit seen to boost PH-US defense partnership

Malacañang on Sunday said that it is expecting that the upcoming visit of United States (US) President Barack Obama to the Philippines will be “fruitful.”

Obama is slated for a two-day visit in Manila on October 11 and 12, the first for a US President since his predecessor George W. Bush held a whirlwind nine-hour visit here in October 2003. He will meet President Benigno Aquino 3rd to discuss the wide-ranging relationship between the United States and the Philippines.

”We’re hoping that this visit will be very fruitful in strengthening our relations [with the] United States,” Strategic Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang said.

He cited that the discussions between the two leaders would cover not just the strategic partnership in the field of defense but also the economic and trade ties between the two nations.

”They will talk about the defense issues, they will talk about economic and trade issues,” Carandang noted.

The Palace official, however, did not give further details on the schedule and agenda of the bilateral talks.

Obama’s visit comes as both countries negotiate an agreement that will allow increased rotational presence of American troops in the Philippines, and give them wider access to the country’s military bases amid tension between the Philippines and China over territory in the West Philippine Sea.

According to Carandang, the territorial dispute with China may be taken up as part of talks to enhance the country’s maritime security.

”I think hindi mo maiiwasan na mapag-uusapan ‘yan kasi bahagi ‘yan ng konteksto ng ating mga kilos [you can’t avoid talking about the territorial dispute because it is part of the context of the move] to enhance our maritime security,” he said.

However, Carandang said that the negotiations for the rotational presence of US troops in the country are not being rushed.

”I don’t think we can say that they are being rushed. These discussions have been going on for several months—if I’m not mistaken, over a year now. And we are making slow but steady progress on the rotational presence,” he said.

”Whether or not we will sign something during the Obama visit is not something I can answer at this point.

What I can assure our countrymen is that [the] discussions with the US will lead to enhanced security for the Philippines and that’s why we’re entering into these discussions,” he added.

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