• Talks begin on increased US presence in Philippines

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    defense20130815

    Ambassador Eric John (center with glasses) of the US State Department introduces his nine-member panel to their Filipino counterparts at the beginning of the US-PH bases talks at the Department of National Defense headquarters on Wednesday. The US is seeking to increase their rotational presence in the country. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN

    THE United States and the Philippines on Wednesday started formal discussions on the planned increased rotation presence (IRP) of American forces in the country.

    Government negotiators, headed by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, vowed to stand by the nation’s interests and ensure that the country benefits from a possible framework agreement on IRP of American troops in the Philippines.

    “While we acknowledge this as another milestone in our long-standing strategic partnership with the US in both diplomacy and national defense, we will come to the negotiating table guided by the Philippine Constitution, utmost respect for sovereignty, and mutuality of benefits in any approved activity and deployment of equipment,” Sorreta said in his opening statement.

    “We would like to assure the Filipino people that your government is committed to defending and protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.

    The framework agreement, which will implement the terms and conditions of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement pertaining to temporary presence of US forces in military bases and will thresh out the details of the agreed policy on IRP.

    According to Sorreta, details of each round of talks will be revealed to the public through media.

    Other members of the Philippine negotiating panel are Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

    The US negotiating panel is composed of the US Department of State Ambassador and Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements of Political-Military Affairs, Eric John; US Department of State Attorney Advisor, Elizabeth Jones; US Department of Defense Brigadier General Joaquin Malavet; and Captain Greg Bart, Deputy Legal Counsel, Office of the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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