• US troop expansion ‘needs no new Senate approval’

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    THE proposed increased rotational presence (IRP) of American forces in the country or enhanced defense cooperation between the Philippines and the United States does not require Senate concurrence once approved by the two sides.

    The Philippine panel head, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, on Friday said the legal framework for the agreement on the IRP is basically anchored on two existing pacts—the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)—and is not a subject of current negotiations.

    “In that light, I think it is worthy to emphasize that the Philippine panel’s position is that—this is an implementing document of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement which have already been concurred in by our Senate in separate instances,” Batino said.

    An implementing agreement “will not have to pass through the Senate for its concurrence,” he said.

    Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya, a panel member, said what the two panels discussed was whether the agreement would be legally binding, adding that they gave the assurance that “it will be legally binding, then they accepted that explanation.”

    The two panels also discussed the right of access by Philippine authorities over American structures and equipment that would be put up inside the camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    According to Malaya, access to US facilities is assured in essence since the areas to be shared are within the premises of existing Philippine military bases.

    What is being discussed is the sharing of responsibilities with respect to security, he said.

    Batino said there would be no exclusivity on the locations provided to the Americans, which would all be temporary in nature, and that some of them would even be jointly used by both forces.

    “With these characteristics, we can’t see that this won’t be a base within a base,” Batino said.

    Erring American personnel would be subject to the provisions of the VFA on matters of jurisdiction.

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