Filtered By: News

US, PHL sign agreement for increased US troop presence

(Updated 11:48 a.m.) Philippine and United States officials on Monday signed the agreement that will allow an enlarged rotational presence of American troops in the country, hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The ceremony lasted for not more than 15 minutes. The two officials left did not take questions after giving short statements.

Finalized after eight rounds of talks that began in August 2013, the new accord grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels.

But the pact rules out permanent basing, as the Philippine Constitution bans foreign military bases in the country unless covered by a treaty.

According to a fact sheet provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the pact has an initial term of 10 years and was signed as an executive agreement within the scope of the Visiting Forces Agreement that had been ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999.

There is no definite number on the visiting troops, the DFA said, adding that their presence will depend on the scale and frequency of activities approved by the two governments.

Read: Highlights of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement
"There would be a regular consultation between Philippines and US officials on the implementation of the agreement," said Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, a member of the Philippine panel.
"No specified time but there would be regular—the word is 'regular'—consultations on the implementation of the agreement," she told reporters before the start of the signing.
"Both parties can agree anytime to consult on the implementation," she added.

Asked whose jurisdiction will it fall if a US soldier commits a crime, Yparraguirre said it was not discussed in the EDCA but the matter is covered under the VFA.

'No permanent US troop presence, bases'
In his speech, Goldberg stressed that the agreement will not pave the way for permanent US military presence and the reopening their military bases in the country.
"The US does not intend to establish permanent military presence in the will not reopen US bases to enhance our defense relationship," he said.
Goldberg said the agreement will support the long-term modernization of the Armed Forces and will help it "maintain and develop additional maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capability." 
He said the EDCA will be an important part of the Mutual Defense Treaty and VFA and will serve as an update on the security alliance of the two countries "to meet the increasingly complex challenge of the 21st century whether is is terrorism, transnational crimes or natural disasters." 
Goldberg said the agreement will take the bilateral security relationship of two countries to a higher and new level to "ensure our nations are ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century in a new and equal partnership."
For his part, Gazmin said the agreement, most importantly, enables the two countries as allies "to do more by making necessary equipment and infrastructures available whenever they are needed for the exercises and other activities."
He said the agreement remains anchored on the principles encapsulated in the MDT and guided by what is possible through the VFA. 
"Alliances evolve, partnerships develop, engagements mature but all throughout it is the shared trust to move forward together that keeps what is in place, such as the MDT and the VFA and offers the prospects of having new mechanisms as this agreement possible," he said.
Palace, DFA welcome EDCA

In a statement, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr. said the signing of the EDCA "affirms the robust and enduring strategic partnership" between the US and the Philippines.
He added that the agreement opens "wider opportunities" for developing the country's self-defense capabilities and strengthening maritime security and marine domain awareness "at a time of evolving and rapidly changing global and regional realities."
He likewise said the deal will help build the capacity of the Philippines for more effective disaster relief and rehabilitation response.
"These are vital elements in the continuing efforts of both countries to work in solidarity with the international community in attaining the shared goal of regional peace and stability," he said.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, meanwhile, said the new military pact between the Philippines and the United States opens a “new chapter” for “modern and mature” defense alliance for the two countries.
“This agreement, concluded after intensive and comprehensive negotiations over the course of nearly two years, marks a milestone in our shared history as enduring treaty allies,” Del Rosario said. —With reports from Kimberly Jane Tan and Michaela del Callar/TJD/KG/RSJ/YA/HS, GMA News