By Jane Morse | Staff Writer | 28 April 2014
Washington — The Philippines and the United States have agreed to enhance their security cooperation.
During a joint press briefing in Manila April 28, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and President Obama announced that the two nations will sign an enhanced defense cooperation agreement (EDCA).
According to a White House fact sheet, the EDCA will facilitate the following:
• Enhanced rotational presence of U.S. forces.
• Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Philippines and the region.
• Improved opportunities for bilateral training.
• Long-term modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“Our defense alliance has been a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region for more than 60 years,” Aquino said during the joint press briefing. “The Philippines-U.S. Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement takes our security cooperation to a higher level of engagement, reaffirms our country’s commitment to mutual defense and security, and promotes regional peace and stability.”
Obama said the agreement signals “an important new chapter in the relationship between our countries.” He added: “I want to be very clear: The United States is not trying to reclaim old bases or build new bases.”
In 1992, the United States, at the request of the Philippines, turned over to Philippine control its largest overseas Navy base — Subic Bay — along with the rest of U.S. military facilities in the country.
Obama said the 2014 EDCA is also at the invitation of the Philippines. Philippine and U.S. forces, Obama said, will “train and exercise more together so that we’re prepared for a range of challenges, including humanitarian crises and natural disasters like Yolanda.”
The United States has already begun to provide $40 million in technical expertise, training and equipment through the Global Security Contingency Fund to strengthen the Philippines’ security operations and maritime domain awareness capabilities, according to the White House fact sheet.
Obama noted that the existing U.S. security treaty alliance with the Philippines is the oldest the United States has in Asia, adding: “Given its strategic location, the Philippines is a vital partner on issues such as maritime security and freedom of navigation.”
Aquino noted that the Philippines is “not a threat militarily to any country,” but has “legitimate needs.”
“We have a 36,000-kilometer coastline,” the Philippine president said. “We do have an exclusive economic zone. We do have concerns about poaching on our waters and preserving the environment and even protecting endangered species. So I think no country should begrudge us our rights to be able to attend to our concerns and our needs.”
Obama said the EDCA “is going to be a terrific opportunity for us to work with the Philippines to make sure that our navies, our air force are coordinated, to make sure that there’s information-sharing to allow us to respond to new threats, and to work with other countries, ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries — Australia, Japan.
“My hope is, is that at some point we’re going to be able to work cooperatively with China as well,” Obama said, “because our goal here is simply to make sure that everybody is operating in a peaceful, responsible fashion. When that happens, that allows countries to focus on what’s most important to people day to day, and that is prosperity, growth, jobs. Those are the things that we as leaders should be focused on, need to be focused on. And if we have security arrangements that avoid conflict and dispute, then we’re able to place our attention on where we should be focused.”
Obama’s visit to the Philippines concludes a weeklong trip through Asia that also took him to Japan, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia.