US, Philippines sign deal on military accord
APPhilippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, left, exchanges documents with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg after signing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement at Camp Aguinaldo in suburban Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines on Monday. Photo: AP
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will give American forces temporary access to selected military camps across the Philippines and allow them to preposition fighter jets and ships.
The U.S. military will get greater access to bases across the
Philippines under a 10-year agreement signed on Monday in
conjunction with President Barack Obama’s visit in a deal
seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese
aggression in the region.
U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and Philippine Defense
Secretary Voltaire Gazmin signed the agreement at the main
military camp in the capital, Manila, ahead of Mr. Obama’s
stop and portrayed it is as a central part of his weeklong Asia
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will give
American forces temporary access to selected military camps
and allow them to preposition fighter jets and ships.
The deal was signed hours before Obama arrived in Manila
on the last leg of a four-country Asian tour, following stops in
Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.
Mr. Goldberg said the agreement will “promote peace and
security in the region,” and allow U.S. and Philippine forces
to respond faster to disasters and other contingencies.
A Philippine government primer on the defence accord that
was seen by The Associated Press did not indicate how many
additional U.S. troops would be deployed “on temporary and
rotational basis.” It said the number would depend on the
scale of joint military activities to be held in the camps.
The size and duration of that presence has to be worked out
with the Philippine government, said Evan Medeiros, senior
director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National
Mr. Medeiros declined to say which places are being
considered under the agreement, but said the long-shuttered
U.S. facility at Subic Bay could be one of the locations.
The defence accord will help the allies achieve different goals.
With its anaemic military, the Philippines has struggled to
bolster its territorial defence amid China’s increasingly
assertive behaviour in the disputed South China Sea.
Manila’s efforts have dovetailed with Washington’s intention
to pivot away from years of heavy military engagement in the
Middle East to Asia, partly as a counterweight to China’s
“The Philippines’ immediate and urgent motivation is to
strengthen itself and look for a security shield with its pitiful
military,” Manila-based political analyst Ramon Casiple said.
“The U.S. is looking for a re-entry to Asia, where its
superpower status has been put in doubt.”
The convergence could work to deter China’s increasingly
assertive stance in disputed territories, Mr. Casiple said. But
it could further antagonize Beijing, which sees such tactical
alliance as a U.S. strategy to contain its rise, and encourage
China to intensify its massive military buildup, he said.
The agreement says the U.S. will “not establish a permanent
military presence or base in the Philippines” in compliance
with Manila’s constitution. A Filipino base commander will
have access to areas to be shared with American forces,
according to the primer.
Disagreements over Philippine access to designated U.S.
areas within local camps hampered negotiations for the
agreement last year.
The agreement will increase coordination between U.S. and
Filipino forces, boost the 120,000-strong Philippine
military’s capability to monitor and secure the country’s
territory and respond more rapidly to natural disasters and
While the U.S. military will not pay rent for local camp areas,
the Philippines will own buildings and infrastructure to be
built or improved by the Americans and reap economic gains
from the U.S. presence, the primer said.
The presence of foreign troops is a sensitive issue in the
Philippines, a former American colony.
The Philippine Senate voted in 1991 to close down U.S. bases
at Subic and Clark, northwest of Manila. However, it ratified
a pact with the United States allowing temporary visits by
American forces in 1999, four years after China seized a reef
the Philippines contests.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States,
hundreds of U.S. forces descended in the southern
Philippines under that accord to hold counterterrorism
exercises with Filipino troops fighting Muslim militants.
This time, the focus of the Philippines and its underfunded
military has increasingly turned to external threats as
territorial spats with China in the potentially oil-and gas-rich
South China Sea heated up in recent years.
Chinese paramilitary ships took effective control of the
disputed Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground off the
northwestern Philippines, in 2012. Last year, Chinese coast
guard ships surrounded another contested offshore South
China Sea territory, the Second Thomas Shoal, where they
have been trying to block food supplies and rotation of
Filipino marines aboard a grounded Philippine navy ship in
the remote coral outcrops.
China has ignored Philippines’ diplomatic protests and
Manila’s move last year to challenge Beijing’s territorial
claims in the South China Sea before an international
arbitration tribunal. It has warned the U.S. to stay out of the
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