A lawmaker raised concerns in the framework agreement currently being drafted by the Philippines and the United States to increase rotational military presence of American troops in the country amid the escalating tensions over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Rep. Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers’ Party-list scrutinized the plans of the agency to increase the presence of U.S. troops in the country during the budget hearing of the Department of National Defense (DND) on Tuesday.
The lawmaker expressed his total opposition against the framework agreement currently being drafted by the Philippines and the U.S. as it is “open-ended.” Tinio fears that this can lead to the possibility of using the Philippines as a “launching pad” of U.S. attacks to other countries like Syria and China.
The framework agreement, according to DND Legal and Legislative Affairs Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, would not provide specific details as to how many troops will be deployed in the country, what venues will be used and the exercises that will be conducted with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“The framework agreement would not provide for the details of the size and shape nor the durations of these activities,” Batino said. “Even the venues will not be provided under the framework agreement.”
Batino said that it is upon the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board, composed by representatives from the Philippines and U.S.’s defense departments, who would plan the specifics.
“In other words, he’s saying that the number of troops and number of facilities that will be opened is open-ended,” Tinio said.
However, Batino assured that the Philippines will not be used in U.S’s wars.
“This is still being negotiated so I cannot say in finality how the agreement would look. But the position of the Philippine panel is that the provisions of the United Nations charter would be strictly followed even against those matters you’ve mentioned,” Batino responded.
Meanwhile, Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan Party-list asked the DND to make sure that the Philippines would not allow the U.S. to transport nuclear weapons inside the country’s territories in accordance to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty signed in 1994.
The DND, Batino said, is ready to implement measures to prevent the entrance of nuclear weapons inside the country.
According to Batino, under the first round of the negotiations between the U.S., the Philippines have strictly prohibited the transporting of such weapons inside the country in accordance to the constitution.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is also tasked to conduct random inspections of military vessels, including its supplies and weapons inventory.
Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Manila to meet Pres. Benigno Aquino 3rd and key DND officials. He announced that the U.S. will increase its rotational military presence in the Philippines and implement a “non-traditional approach” in conducting the joint military exercises. JHOANNA BALLARAN