• PH to play key role in US Asian ‘pivot’

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    THE Philippines will play a vital role in the United States’ “rebalancing” of assets toward what Washington calls the Asian “pivot” and President Barack Obama will likely discuss Manila’s part with President Benigno Aquino 3rd during his scheduled Asian roundabout by month’s end.

    On Sunday, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the two leaders are most likely to discuss the “strategic partnership” between the two countries.

    Coloma added that the discussions between Obama and Aquino will center on defense and security ties.

    “The context of the [meeting]is the US’ rebalancing [policy]and the Asian pivot,” the Palace official said.

    The new strategy involves the shifting of focus from costly wars in the Middle East to Asia, where trade has been bustling and expected to further improve with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration in 2015.

    US and Philippines official are in the thick of preparations for the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which will allow sharing of military bases with US troops.

    The agreement is also seen to bolster Manila’s defense posture against China, which has been viewed as bullying the Philippines over disputed islets and shoals in the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

    Coloma explained that Asia “is an important commercial channel for goods from around the world.”

    “[Many] countries have special interest in Asean, the same thing with the US,” the official pointed out.

    “All these will form the important elements of the discussions between the two presidents,” he said.

    Obama, who is scheduled to be in Manila on April 28, will also visit Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

    Meanwhile, Coloma said all security protocols and preparations have been set for Obama’s visit.

    He added that while they respect the right to free speech and expression, security forces will be ready to respond to threats.

    Coloma said the police will ensure that rallies to be staged by militant groups will be peaceful.

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