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‘Semantics’ tie down talks on wider US access to PH

Bali—Manila and Washington are now ironing out the “semantics” of the framework access agreement which would allow more American troops, aircraft and ships to temporarily pass through the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday. Aquino said he will discuss the language concerns when he meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday in Manila. “Perhaps in any negotiation, we are always tied down by semantics - the words that are actually used to convey the thoughts,” he said in an interview during the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit here in Nusa Dua. The summit ended with the 21 APEC member-economies agreeing to implement responsible macroeconomic policies while shunning protectionism to offset the slowing global economic growth. “We will implement prudent and responsible macroeconomic policies to ensure mutually reinforcing effect of growth and to maintain economic and financial stability in the region, and prevent negative spillover effect,” the APEC leaders said in the eight-page Bali Declaration. Aquino said 1increasing trade barriers will only stifle further the recovery of the global market. “Of course there are common areas of concern. Agriculture is a concern by everybody - how do you improve your agriculture sector but at the same time maintain a liberal trade policy which increases the market?” he asked. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for his part, said APEC economies must increase intra-region trade. He also stressed the importance of accelerating physical, institutional, and people-to-people connectivity among APEC members. APEC member-economies account for more than 3 billion people and over half of global gross domestic product. Aquino left Bali on Tuesday afternoon for Brunei where he will attend the Leaders’ Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He will be back in Manila on Thursday, in time for his meeting with United States Secretary of State John Kerry the day after. In Manila, Kerry would represent US President Barack Obama, who was forced to cancel his four-country Asian swing because of the shutdown of the federal government. Aquino said he does not expect any hardline stance from either side on the access agreement negotiations. “The Philippines and the United States are friends. There will be give and take, then hopefully we will come to that document that represents the meeting of minds of both countries,” he said. Aquino said both sides would like to ensure that the final document would address all the concerns and anxieties over the increased rotational presence of US troops. “Their language is geared to support the request for budget when they go to Congress. Their language might be perfect in an American manner of speaking English but might be construed differently through a Filipino mind,” the President added. In an earlier interview in Manila, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said the final outcome of the access agreement will not result in permanent basing rights for Washington, but would instead use a new model of ìmilitary-to-military cooperation befitting two great allies and partners.î Aquino said he would also discuss with Kerry the ongoing shutdown as well as Washington’s future plans in Syria. “We will also ask their intentions in elsewhere where we have an interest; for instance, Syria is hot on topic. We still have citizens in Syria. We as an ally would want to know their intentions so that we can prepare our citizens for any eventuality,” the President said.
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