The Philippine panel negotiating a new military-to-military agreement with the
"The Philippine side presented a full draft text which more comprehensively articulated the Philippines’ positions which are consistent with the Philippine Constitution and relevant laws as well as informed by the country’s historical experiences," according to a statement of the Department of National Defense (DND) on Sunday, March 9.
The draft text was presented during Round 5 of talks in January following a shake-up in the Philippine panel. (READ: Problems in the PH-US bases access deal?)
The statement said the 2 panels have since made progress in the following areas: preamble, purpose and scope, definition of terms, ownership of constructed infrastructure, coordination of security, contracting procedures, and resolution of disputes.
New title: Enhanced Defense Cooperation
The title of the draft agreement was also revised from "Increased Rotational Presence" (IRP) to "Enhanced Defense Cooperation."
"The proposed agreement will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain AFP (Armed Forces of the
facilities with elements of the
military on a rotational basis within parameters consistent with the Philippine
Constitution and laws," said the DND statement. US
There is no word if the 2 panels have settled contentious issues such as the access of Filipino troops to facilities that the
will build in Philippine bases and the length of time the American troops will
be given "temporary" access to the bases. (READ: PH to press 'equal access' to US facilities in bases deal
and PH, US haggling over length of stay of troops) US
Typical military agreements between the
and another country last for 20 years. The Philippine panel earlier said it is
looking for a "much shorter" timeframe. US
Philippine panel chairman Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said: "This fresh round has clearly shown the shared commitment of both parties to enhance cooperation in defense, security and related fields, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response. The further exchanges of views have helped pave the way for the formulation of mutually agreeable language.”
agreed to the "inclusion of provisions on environment and safety, and
opportunities for potential Philippine suppliers of goods, products and
Inspite of statements that the agreement will not be rushed, talk is rife that its signing will happen during Obama's visit in April. Both panels are scheduled to hold another round of talks in late March in
(READ: PH won't rush defense accord for Obama visit) Manila
In a recent interview with journalists,
ambassador Philip Goldberg said: "We want to conclude the agreement as
soon as we can. There are still some details to work out. We have made progress
in the agreement. We want to conclude it as quickly as possible. I won't set
the date." US
Batino earlier told Rappler that the deal is intended to be an executive agreement that will not need Senate ratification. Goldberg however has said this issue is what both sides will continue to tackle.
"Those are issues that, as [Armed Forces chief] General Emmanuel bautista said, are part of the negotiation. Let me just remind that we have a Mutual Defense Treaty. We have a Visiting Forces Agreement. We currently have these agreements for cooperation. Regardless of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation, we have a very strong military to military relationship. We have ongoing exercises and humanitarian assistance," Goldberg said.
Philippines has sought the assistance of the US, a treaty ally, against the backdrop of
rising tension with China
over maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea ( South
Tension continues to escalate as the
accused the Chinese Coast Guard of using water cannons against Filipino
fishermen in January in an attempt to drive them away from the Panatag Shoal ( Scarborough). (READ: PH protests China 'water cannon' incident)
The shoal that is located within the country's 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone has been practically occupied by the Chinese Coast Guard following a tense standoff in 2012 when the
withdrew its ships. Philippines
Philippines is also acquiring critical assets to improve minimum credible
defense in the West Philippine Sea.