Friday, April 4, 2014

Malacañang unsure pact on increased US troop presence ready for Obama visit

From the Business Mirror (Apr 4): Malacañang unsure pact on increased US troop presence ready for Obama visit

MALACAÑANG admitted on Friday that it is still unsure if the agreement on enhanced US military presence will be concluded in time for the April 27 and 28 visit to Manila of President Barack Obama.
Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters at a news briefing that the negotiations are still ongoing between Filipino and American officials crafting the framework agreement that will increase US troop presence in the country.
“That is still subject of discussion. We don’t know if all the kinks have been ironed out. But we will leave it with the both panels,” the Palace official said.
Lacierda added: “Insofar as the Philippines is concerned, they are still in discussions with the US panels. So, whether it will reach the [Obama] visit is not something that we are aware of.”
Asked if it was possible the agreement can be signed during the visit, Lacierda said Department of National Defense officials privy to the negotiations are in a better position to answer this.
“In the realm of possibilities, it is easy to say yes or no,” he said but added “it is better for us to have a more… better for us to be informed as to the status of the discussions.”
Lacierda told reporters in an earlier interview that the new military agreement with the US would not require ratification by the Philippine Senate as the arrangement on increased American military presence here would already be covered by the existing RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty and the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement forged much earlier.
In the same briefing, Lacierda begged off from giving additional details of the coming Obama visit, explaining that “the normal protocol is for the Department of Foreign Affairs to announce it.”
“So, we would rather the DFA to announce it. We will wait for an announcement from them,” Lacierda added.
He, however, indicated that the activities would include traditional arrival honors for visiting heads of state, as well as bilateral discussions, but gave no further details.

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