More US troops to boost country’s defense—DFA

THE increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines will boost its defense systems as it tries to modernize its military, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Thursday.

And the framework agreement that will allow more US troops to visit the country will also be advantageous for the Philippines in times of disaster and boost its capabilities, Del Rosario said.

He made his statement even as he denied saying that the United States’ aid in the aftermath of super typhoon “Yolanda” proved the need for a greater US military presence in the country.

He told ANC that his statement came out in the context of the visit of a US congressional delegation to the country to oversee the Americans’ relief efforts in the areas devastated by Yolanda.

“I did not strictly say that it is time for an increased presence of the United States in the Philippines. I think this issue came out in the context of this visit of US Congressmen recently,” Del Rosario said.

“My response was the Increased Rotational Presence covers principally developing a minimum defense posture and part of that is actually to be able to address more effectively humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

“We are not talking about numbers. We are talking about initiatives and projects that will dictate the number. The American troops will come in, and once the project is done, they leave.”

During a press conference on Monday, Del Rosario was quoted as saying that the relief and rescue operation in the Visayas “demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we are working out with the United States for increased rotational presence because it accentuates the purpose, one of the purposes, the main purpose of the framework, which is to make humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and response a very major aspect of the agreement.”

Senators disputed that such a need required the presence of American military forces on Philippine soil.

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said an anticipation of a major disaster was not a justification for the entry of foreign troops in the country.

Senate President Frank Drilon said anything that would be provided for under the framework agreement must be consistent with the Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases in the country.

The negotiations for increased US rotational presence in the Philippines, an integral part of the Obama administration’s re-pivoting to Asia after more than a decade of preoccupation in its war against terrorism campaign in the Middle East, reached an impasse days before Yolanda flattened out parts of Leyte and Samar.

The deadlock in the negotiations happened as rising concerns about the constitutionality of the agreement were voiced out.


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