The two oldest allies in the Asia-Pacific region had been
negotiating a new military deal for nearly eight months to increase
U.S. rotational presence in the Philippines and improve its former
colony's defense capability.
The pact will also raise the level of protection against China,
which has strengthened its naval presence in disputed areas in the
South China Sea after seizing control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012.
Pio Lorenzo Batino, Undersecretary of Defense and chair of the
Philippine negotiating panel, said both sides had reached a
"consensus on key points" during an eighth round of talks.
"The draft provisions on key points of an enhanced defense
cooperation will be submitted to the president for his review,"
Batino said in a statement. The accord is expected to be signed
during President Barack Obama's April 28-29 visit to Manila.
The agreement will be a highlight of Obama's visit to Asia,
underscoring the U.S. "rebalance" to Asia despite preoccupations
elsewhere, including Ukraine, Iran and Syria.
"No, I don't think there should be any doubts to the U.S. rebalance
to Asia," said Jose Cuisia, the Philippine ambassador to the United
Cuisia said the Philippines stood to receive more U.S. military
assistance once the pact was signed. For this year, the U.S.
allocated about $50 million in foreign military financing, nearly
double the previous year's sum.
"It's up to the Philippine Armed Forces to determine what they
need," Cuisia said. "I think they are looking at getting newer
He said Washington also promised to help acquire long-range maritime
patrol aircraft to enable the Philippines to keep closer watch on
its maritime borders in the South China Sea.
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Military sources said the agreement would increase ship visits and
deployment of surveillance aircraft. Last year, there were 149 U.S.
navy ship vists, up from 68 in the previous year.
Batino said the agreement complied with the Philippine constitution,
meaning U.S. forces will have no permament presence and will set up
no military bases.
"United States access to and use of the armed forces of the
Philippines facilities and areas will be at the invitation of the
Philippines," he said.
The agreement, he said, excluded the import of nuclear weapons and
also had "robust provisions on the protection of environment, human
health and safety".
The United States had two large military bases in the Philippines up
to November 1992. The Philippine Senate voted to evict the American
military forces in 1991, ending 45 years of special relations from
Manila's independence in 1946.
The U.S. military returned in 2000 after Manila signed an agreement
allowing the two sides to train and hold exercises together on
conventional and counter-terrorism operations.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; editing by Ron Popeski)
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