Philippines offers US access to bases

March 15, 2014 - 6:09:03 am
MANILA:  The Philippines has agreed to allow the United States access to its military bases under a new security deal being negotiated by the two allies, amid mounting concern over China’s increasing assertiveness in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The offer was made during a sixth round of talks held in Washington last week, Filipino officials said yesterday. The two sides hope to finalise terms before US President Barack Obama embarks on a visit to Asia, including the Philippines, next month. 

“Consensus was arrived at on many provisions of the draft agreement,” Pio Lorenzo Batino, defence undersecretary told a news conference, adding the deal is 80 percent done. 

“The proposed agreement will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) facilities with elements of the US military.”

The United States plans to “rebalance” its forces in Asia-Pacific region, and has similar arrangements with Australia and Singapore, as part of its strategy to counter China.

The new agreement on enhanced defence cooperation will allow the United States increased deployment of troops, ships, aircraft and humanitarian equipment.

US military access in the Philippines is currently limited to during annual joint-exercises and port visits. The Philippines kicked the United States out two large military bases, including Subic Bay, in 1991. 

While that ended a special relationship going back 40 years between the United States and its former colony won its independence in 1946, an alliance has endured.

Manila would welcome the return of a US military presence to deter China’s ambitions in the South China Sea, and to help provide humanitarian assistance during natural disasters.                    Reuters

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