Aug 112013


Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense on Monday announced that negotiations on a framework agreement on increased rotational presence of U.S. troops in the Philippines will start this week.

“This week, diplomacy and defense will once again intersect to secure our nation. This week we start negotiations with the United States to institutionalize this policy through a framework agreement,” Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario told media men at Camp Aguinaldo.

The first round of talks will begin Wednesday at DND in Camp Aguinaldo, and is expected to be finished within four meetings.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the plan is in line with the realignment of American troops in the Asia-Pacific, and comes as China, the Philippines and several other nations are locked in territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

Gazmin stressed that the wider U.S. troop presence will comply with the constitution, which bans foreign military bases, and will not be permanent.

Del Rosario, for his part, said:  “For our defense, modernization can begin even before we are able to purchase the necessary defense systems. Deterrence can be enhanced even before modernization. Maritime security and maritime domain awareness will be given a boost even before we have ships and aircraft we need. And even before we have the advanced and sophisticated hardware we wish for, we will know how to operate and maintain them. Our ability to provide our people and the region with timely and responsive humanitarian and disaster relief will be greatly improved. ”

“Our Philippine negotiators have been given parameters that require them to ensure that our Constitution and laws are respected. They have been tasked to ensure that Philippine interests are preserved and promoted” he added.

Del Rosario said that they have formally informed Congress of the negotiations.  A report by the Associated Press earlier said that Del Rosario and Gazmin had written leaders of Congress to make a case for an increased rotational presence of American troops, arguing that this would help the country attain a “minimum credible defense” of its territory.

Members of the Philippine panel in the negotiation are Carlos Sorreta of the Office of American Affairs of the DFA; Prof. Raymund Jose Quilop, Assistant Secretary of DND; Pio Lorenzo Batino, Undersecretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs and Strategic Concerns, DND; and Francisco Baraan III, Undersecretary from the Department of Justice.

Sorreta said that the US counterpart will be led by Eric G. John, Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements in the  Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.—With AP report

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