• SFA denied saying Yolanda boosted need for IRP

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    Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario denied saying that the United States relief aid in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda proved the need for increased American military presence in the country.

    During an interview with ANC’s Headstart, the former Philippine Ambassador to Washington said his statement came out in context of the visit of the US congressional delegation to the country to oversee the relief efforts of the Americans in eastern Visayas.

    “I did not strictly say strictly that it is time for an increases presence of the United States in the Philippines. I think this issue came out in the context of this visit of US Congressmen recently,” he told ANC’s anchor, Karen Davila.

    But the framework agreement that will allow increased US troops in the country will prove to be advantageous in times of disasters. It will also boost the country’s capabilities as it modernizes its archaic army.

    “My response was the Increased Rotational Presence covers principally developing a minimum defense posture and part of that is actually to be able to address more effectively humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”

    On Monday, during a press conference, del Rosario was quoted as saying tat the relief rescue operation “demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we are working out with the United States for increased rotational presence because it accentuates the purpose, one of the purposes, the main purpose of the framework which is to make humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and response a very major aspect of the agreement.”

    Senators disputed that such a need requires the presence of American military on Philippine soil. Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said an anticipation of a major disaster is not a justification for foreign troops in the country.

    For his part, Senate President Frank Drilon said anything that will be provided for under the framework agreement must be consistent with the Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases in the country.

    The negotiations for the US increased rotational presence in the Philippines, an integral part of the Obama administration’s repivot to Asia policy after more than a decade of preoccupation in its war against terrorism campaign in the Middle East, reached an impasse days before Yolanda flattened out parts of Leyte and Samar provinces.

    The deadlock in the negotiations happened as rising concerns about the constitutionality of the agreement were voiced out. Some sectors said the move may open up the possibility of Washington reestablishing bases in the country, a benefit enjoyed by the US for years but was revoked during the time of former President Corazon Aquino.

    Article XVIII, Section 25 of the Constitution states that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

    This framework agreement may also reinforce the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

    The MDT was the primary buffer of the Philippines against what was believed to be China’s aggressive stance in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

    The agreement compels both countries to come to each other’s aids in case of an external attack.

    Washington has not been shy in making known its efforts to reach out to its former allies in the Asia Pacific—the Philippines, Japan and South Korea—as well as to new ones.

    It has already stationed additional troops in Singapore and Australia. BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON

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