To Give U.S. Forces Access To Up To Five Military Bases
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[May 02, 2014]
MANILA (Reuters) — Up to five
Philippine military bases will be made available for U.S. forces to
rotate aircraft, ships, equipment and troops, Manila's chief negotiator
of a new security pact said on Friday, as the Philippines looks to
counter China's rising power in the region.
A new 10-year military agreement, which also covers storage of
equipment for maritime security and humanitarian assistance, was
signed with the United States last week, hours before President
Barack Obama arrived for a two-day visit to Manila.
"Right now, the discussions would be ranging from three to five
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bases," said Pio Lorenzo
Batino, a defense undersecretary and head of the negotiating panel,
told a news conference. "That's not final."
He said the army's jungle training base in Fort Magsaysay, north of
Manila, was "ideal location" for the United States because the two
oldest allies in the region regularly hold joint exercises there.
Military sources familiar with the discussions said the United
States has also requested access to three former U.S. bases — Clark
airfield, Subic bay, Poro Point — and Camp Aguinaldo, the military
general headquarters in Manila.
The United States is also considering whether to seek access to four
civil airports — Palawan, Cebu, General Santos, and Laoag — as well
as Batanes airfield for refueling and emergency servicing, the
sources said. There are also nearby bases in Cebu and Palawan.
Defense and military officials said the new Enhanced Defense
Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will boost the Philippines' defense
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Territorial disputes have made the South China Sea, believed to have
rich deposits of oil and gas, a potential flashpoint for the region.
Other countries with competing claims include Brunei, Malaysia,
Vietnam and Taiwan.
China has become increasingly assertive in the disputed waters,
seizing control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and has been blockading
Second Thomas Shoal, where a Philippine Navy transport ship was
deliberately run aground in 1999 to establish a presence.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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