The Philippines and the United States signed on Monday morning a new defence pact ahead of the arrival in Manila of US President Barack Obama for a two-day state visit.
In a brief ceremony at the Department of National Defence, Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed the “enhanced defence cooperation agreement”.
The pact will give US troops, planes and warships access to military bases in the Philippines.
Mr Golberg stressed it “will not reopen US bases” while Mr Gazmin said the new arrangement will allow the Philippines and the US to “meet security challenges” that both countries face.In a statement, President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Herminio Coloma said the new defence agreement “opens wider opportunities for developing our self-defence capabilities and strengthening maritime security and marine domain awareness at a time of evolving and rapidly changin global and regional realities”.Three nationalist lawmakers from the left-leaning Bayan Muna (Nation First) party-list group said they would question the legality of the new defence pact before the Supreme Court and might even raise the issue before an international court.Both the Philippine and US sides have yet to thrash out details about the size and location of US deployments. A member of the Philippine panel said these would be addressed in annexes that they would issue soon.A primer distributed after the signing ceremonies said apart from giving the US access to more Philippine bases, over which Manila will retain full control, the new defence pact will also help modernise the Philippine military with new aircraft, warships and radar facilities.