US moves closer to reviving bases in Philippines as part of focus on Asia

Pacific Fleet commander in Manila for talks as next phase of American ‘pivot’ towards Asia takes key step of setting up troops agreement

With the US pressing ahead with its “pivot” to Asia, Admiral Harry Harris is expected to use his first official trip to the Philippines to discuss a deal which would allow United States troops to be rotated around the country in bigger numbers and in more areas.

“Admiral Harris plans to use this opportunity to discuss the strong and enduring relationships between the US and Philippine navies, the implications of the US military’s rebalance to the Pacific, and the importance of naval engagement and co-operation for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” the US embassy in Manila said yesterday.

Harris will meet senior embassy and military officials during his visit. President Benigno Aquino hinted last week that Manila and Washington were “very, very close” to signing an agreement and he had not “been presented major sticking points”.

Negotiations are set to resume early next month. However, a source said a final agreement was being held up as Manila insisted on having access to all temporary American facilities, while at the same time turning down a request to allow the US to set up bases outside Philippines camps.

The source explained: “The problem is, the US wants complete control including flying the US flag alone in certain areas. That would lead to a constitutional challenge.”

Explaining the current legal status of the US presence in the country, Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reforms, said “there is an American camp within a Philippines base and it is jointly controlled by the American and the Philippines commanders”.

While in theory that means a Philippines commander can go into the US camp at any time, he said that in reality “the US guard will not let anybody go into the American camp without permission from the American camp commander”.

Full article: US moves closer to reviving bases in Philippines as part of focus on Asia (South China Morning Post)

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