The US and the Philippines have signed a defense pact giving the US a bigger military presence in the island nation. The agreement was penned just before the arrival in Manila of US President Barack Obama.
Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin and US ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the 10-year-pact on Monday, with the American military securing greater access to bases across the country.
In a written response to the local ABS-CBN television network ahead of his visit, Obama said the deal would see more US troops sent to the Philippines on a rotation basis.
“Greater cooperation between American and Filipino forces would enhance our ability to train, exercise, and operate with each other and respond even faster to a range of challenges,” Obama said in a written response to questions by local television network ABS-CBN ahead of his visit.
“US forces would not be based in the Philippines. Instead, they would rotate through for joint training and exercises, as some US forces already do.”
Throwing a bigger shadow
The Philippines has been keen to boost its military capacity – and show off its close ties to the US, at a time when it has a rival claim to parts of the South China Sea with its much larger neighbor China.
In his comments to the television station, Obama reiterated US support for the former Spanish and US colony, referring to the countries’ 1951 mutual defense treaty. While he made no mention of specific maritime hotspots, the president did urge China – which has similar disputes with several countries – not to use intimidation when pressing its claim.
“I’ve been clear and consistent in stressing that the United States and China need to support efforts among claimants to peacefully manage and resolve maritime and territorial issue through dialogue, not intimidation, including in the South China Sea,” Obama said.
The US president has since arrived in the Philippines, where he is scheduled to meet President Benigno Aquino, hold a press conference and attend a state dinner. Obama is currently on a tour of the Asia which has so far also included Japan and South Korea as well as Malaysia.
rc/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)