MANILA, Philippines — Officials on Wednesday said that the United States military may be allowed under the increased rotational presence to build structures in the Philippines providing that they are only temporary.
Carlos Sorreta, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo during a press briefing on Wednesday that “The possibility of construction is there, only if we approve it and only on a temporary basis. At the end of the exercise these will either be removed or transferred to us, under our, either existing process,”
For the first time, officials held a press briefing after the third round of talks on the increased rotational presence of American troops held in Washington last week.
Sorreta also added that there are existing processes on transfer of equipment between the two countries and that “Anything they construct will have to be monitored and approved by the [Armed Forces of the Philippines]”. Sorreta also added that these will “only be for a specific type and it will be removed at the end of the activity.”
The head of the Philippine panel of negotiators Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino also said that “Both sides concurred that the designated authorities of the agreement would be the Department of National Defense and the US Department of Defense. This reflects the very nature of the agreement that it is an executive agreement,”
During the third round of talks, Philippine and US officials agreed that “respective defense departments would be the designated implementing authorities of the framework agreement.” According to Sorreta, they were now “past the halfway mark” of the negotiations, although Sorreta could not pinpoint when exactly the agreement between the two nations would be completed.
When asked if the agreement would be reached before US President Barack Obama visits the country in October, Sorreta said “The agreement will be signed when the Philippines is sure that it has gotten what it wants. It’s not peg on any date, it’s not peg to be signed on Christmas, as a Christmas gift or anything. It’s when we are sure that we have met the parameters given to us and that’s the time we conclude it, it may, depends on how the agreement progresses,”
The agreement is widely viewed as a shot in the arm for the Philippines’ external defense. It may also help in improving its disaster response.
The next round of negotiations is scheduled in Manila this coming October 1st and 2nd.