WASHINGTON and Manila are working out an agreement that will allow American forces to bring in military equipment and other equipment to two former US bases—Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Thursday.
The agreement does not mean that the Philippine government plans additional bases in Subic for the joint use of American and Filipino forces, Gazmin was quick to point out.
“Right now the agreement has not been firmed up, we are in the process of crafting the agreement based on our Constitution and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said.
Once the issues like access are ironed out ”then there will be equipment coming in from the United States,” he said.
Gazmin said the same agreement may later be applied to Japanese forces, in accordance with existing protocols.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd earlier said the Philippines would welcome an increased US military presence, amid tense disputes with China over competing claims to parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
However, Gazmin’s comments indicated the Philippines was hoping to expand on the standard military exercises that the US and Manila forces regularly engage in.
“Modalities for the increased rotational presence are right now being examined. One modality is the conduct of high-value, high-impact exercise,” Gazmin said, without elaborating.
During his visit last year, the US Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said the US will increase its presence in the Philippines and other parts of the Asia-Pacific to ensure peace and stability in the region.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced also last year that the US will shift its naval forces in the Pacific by 2020 as part of America’s new strategic focus on Asia.