OBAMA VOWS SUPPORT FOR  PH BUT WON'T COUNTER CHINA

APRIL 28-- US President Barack Obama on Monday assured the Philippines of his government’s support in the latter’s territorial dispute with China – but it’s not the support the public was expecting. “Today we reaffirmed the importance of resolving territorial disputes in the region peacefully without intimidation or coercion. And in that spirit supports [President Benigno Aquino III’s] decision to pursue international arbitration concerning territorial disputes in the South China Sea,” Obama said in a joint press conference with Aquino at the Malacañang Palace. Not confronting China-- Asked if the US will defend the Philippines in case territorial disputes in the South China Sea escalate, Obama said, “Our goal is not to counter China; our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes.” He said the US welcomes China’s “peaceful rise” amid its “constructive relationship” and “enormous trade” with the nation. “And really our message to China consistently in a whole range of issues is we want be a partner with you in upholding international law,” he added. Obama insisted that the United States welcomed the “peaceful rise” of China, its biggest foreign creditor, pointing to their countries’ “constructive relationship” that involves “enormous trade” and “enormous business.” “I think that it is good for the region and good for the world if China is successfully developing, if China is lifting more of its people out of poverty,” he said. “My hope is that, at some point, we’re going to be able to work cooperatively with China as well. Because our goal here is simply to make sure that everybody is operating in a peaceful, responsible fashion.” “If China, I think, listens to its neighbors and recognizes that there is another approach to resolve these disputes, what China will find is this—they have got ready and willing partners throughout the Asia-Pacific region that want to work with them on trade and commerce and selling goods and buying goods,” he said.READ MORE...

ALSO: No firm commitment from US to defend PH

Three hours before Air Force One touched down in Manila on Monday, the Aquino administration gifted US President Barack Obama with what he primarily came here for: a 10-year defense agreement allowing more American troops in the Philippines.
But in turn, Obama gave no categorical commitment whether the 62-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries—the backbone of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg—would apply in case the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China escalates into an armed confrontation. Steering clear of the question, Obama instead pointed to Beijing’s “interest” in abiding by international law, saying “larger countries have a greater responsibility” to do so.
“Our goal is not to counter China; our goal is not to contain China,” he said in a joint press conference with President Aquino in Malacañang, reflecting a delicate balancing act throughout his weeklong trip that earlier took him to Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. “Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes.” “We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks,” Obama said. He said the objectives of the new deal were not limited to “issues of maritime security.” Besides assisting the Philippines in disaster response, it would also cover “additional threats that may arise that we are able to work in a cooperative fashion,” he said. In a speech during the state dinner, Obama said: “We are honored and proud to call you an ally and a friend. Through our treaty alliance, the United States has an ironclad commitment to defend you, your security and your independence.” Unlike Japan, the Philippines, the United States’ oldest defense treaty ally in Asia, got no unequivocal statement from Obama that Washington would come to Manila’s defense in the event of an armed conflict with Beijing over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).READ MORE...

ALSO: Obama arrives in Manila

US President Barack Obama arrived in Manila on Monday afternoon for his two-day state visit in the country. Obama arrived on Air Force One at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 1:26 p.m., a couple of hours after the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed at Camp Aguinaldo. He was greeted by honor guards and received by Vice President Jejomar Binay, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia. The visiting president and his party then boarded the Marine One Presidential Helicopter that would bring them to Malacañang. He is in the Philippines for the first time to meet with President Benigno Aquino III and to strengthen the ties between the two countries. The Philippines is the last stop of Obama’s Asian tour—he had previously visited Japan, South Korea and Malaysia—which is part of the US bid to rebalance its forces in the region amid China’s increasing political and military might.

ALSO: Aquino welcomes Obama in Malacañang

US President Barack Obama was welcomed by President Benigno Aquino III on Monday afternoon at Malacañang, the first stop of his two-day state visit in the country. The two heads of state attended the customary Welcome Ceremony at the Malacañang Palace grounds around 2:15 p.m.
Obama arrived in front of Bonifacio Hall (formerly Premier Guest House) on a limousine, after traveling to the compound on the Marine One Presidential Helicopter from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). During the Welcome Ceremony, the national anthems of the Philippines and the United States were played while a 21-gun salute was being rendered.
The two leaders then inspected the troops, followed by the Commander of the Honor Guards sheathing his sword and saluting Obama to mark the end of the ceremony. Aquino introduced Obama to several Cabinet members including Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. The gesture was returned by Obama who introduced Aquino to the US officials including National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Ambassador Philip Goldberg. After the introductions, Aquino and Obama listened to the playing of Pangkat Kawayan (Bamboo Orchestra). But before heading inside to sign the official guestbook at the Reception Hall, Obama took his time to shake hands with employees of the Office of the President who were waving flaglets of the US and the Philippines.READ MORE...

ALSO: Obama will eat Filipino seafood for dinner – report

On his first state visit to the Philippines, US President Barack Obama will have a taste of Filipino seafood for dinner, a radio report said. The report, quoting the executive cook of the Makati Shangri-La which will host the state dinner later, said one of the main dishes is lobster from Guimaras island, which the chef claimed is among the “best lobster in the country.” “I was in Guimaras, they tell me that our lobster is best in the island, one of the best lobsters in the country,” Shangri-La executive chef Gene Del Prado said in the report. The hotel will also serve Obama “lapu-lapu” (Grouper fish) spiced with “pili nuts,” the report said. Obama will also be served “pochero,” a type of meat stew, this time using shell fish, it added. For dessert, meanwhile, the US president will be served Guimaras mango and buko lychee ice cream for dessert. Obama is in the country for the last leg of his Asian tour, part of the US bid to rebalance its forces in the region amid China’s increasing political and military might. The US president started his state visit just hours after the signing of an agreement between the country and US allowing an increased presence of American troops in the former US colony.THIS IS THE FULL STORY.

(ALSO) Santiago: Defense pact will further antagonize China

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) will further antagonize China. “Definitely the new Agreement, whatever it may contain, will further antagonize China because in effect, we consent that the Philippines should be listed under the American column, instead of the China column,” Santaigo said in a statement Monday. “If China reaches out to Russia while the Ukraine issue continues to simmer, the US will certainly call on the Philippines to fulfil treaty obligation under the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty,” she said. The agreement was signed by US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin after eight rounds of negotiations over two years. Philippines and China are locked in a maritime dispute over the Spratly Group of Islands and Scarborough shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) with several incidents of Chinese ships expelling Filipino boats from the area. The agreement allows US military troops access to Philippine military bases as well as to construct buildings in the bases which will be owned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) upon completion. Militant groups are protesting the agreement saying that it violates the Philippine constitution for allowing “de facto US basing.” “No matter how much the US denies it, US troops have been stationed in the Philippines since 2002 under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr., said in a statement.READ MORE...

ALSO: US pact will strengthen PH defense – Palace

Amid hard opposition by critics, Malacañang on Monday said it was confident that the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will strengthen the country’s defense capabilities. “The agreement opens wider opportunities for developing our self-defense capabilities and strengthening maritime security and marine domain awareness at a time of evolving and rapidly changing global and regional realities,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement. “These are vital elements in the continuing efforts of both countries to work in solidarity with the international community in attaining the shared goal of regional peace and stability,” he added. The Secretary explained that the EDCA, which allows US access to Philippine military facilities, affirmed “the robust and enduring partnership” between the United States and the Philippines.
The signing of the EDCA on Monday morning came hours before US President Barack Obama’s first state visit to the Philippines, the last stop of his Asian tour. US is currently working on its rebalancing act in Asia amid the rising power of China, which threatens its influence in the region.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

(ALSO) Obama to China: Listen to your neighbors

By listening to its neighbors, China can realize that they are not adversaries but “willing partners” in its quest for regional development and stability, visiting US President Barack Obama said yesterday. Asked to comment on China’s growing aggressiveness in staking its claims in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, Obama said the emerging super power should show good faith and commitment to resolve its territorial disputes with its neighbors peacefully. “If China, I think, listens to its neighbors and recognizes that there is another approach to resolve these disputes, what China will find is this – they’ve got ready and willing partners throughout the Asia Pacific region that want to work with them on trade and commerce and selling goods and buying goods,” Obama said in a joint press briefing at Malacañang with President Aquino shortly after his arrival yesterday for a two-day state visit. The Philippines is the final leg of his four-nation Asian tour. “And it’s inevitable that China is going to be a dominant power in this region just by pure size. Nobody, I think, denies that,” he said. “We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks. What we do is we sit down and we have some people in the room,” he said. “It’s boring, it’s not exciting but it’s usually a good way to work out these problems and work out these issues,” he pointed out. “And I think that all the countries that I had spoken to in the region during the course of my trip – Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and now the Philippines – their message has been the same, everywhere I go, which is: They would like to resolve these issues peacefully and diplomatically,” he added.

Editorial: Unfinished business

Barack Obama, the seventh sitting US president to visit the Philippines, arrives today to discuss defense and security issues that may well have a bearing on the next generation of Filipinos. President Aquino will honor his country’s highest interests if he uses the opportunity to also remind Obama of America’s unfinished business in the Philippines. After Dwight Eisenhower in 1960, Lyndon Johnson in 1966, Richard Nixon in 1969, Gerald Ford in 1975, Bill Clinton in 1994 and 1996 and George W. Bush (who couldn’t be bothered to spare more than a few hours) in 2003, it is Obama’s turn to visit. We have no doubt that the first black American president, much more popular abroad than in his closely divided nation, will meet an enthusiastic reception from a US-friendly population. And the timing, while delayed, is still right. China’s increasing recklessness in asserting its maritime and territorial claims in the region has forced many countries to review its relationship with the United States. The declaration of the so-called US pivot to Asia in 2011 was welcomed by many regional capitals, because the United States remains the only credible counterweight to China. But the delay points to Obama’s problem; his visit, originally scheduled for October last year, had to be postponed because American partisan politics caused a shutdown of the US federal government. Behind the generally positive reception to Obama’s pivot to Asia, then, is widespread concern that the American president does not in fact have the political support to fund it or follow through on it.READ MORE BELOW...


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Obama vows support for PH but won’t counter China


U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. AP

MANILA, MAY 5, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Kristine Angeli Sabillo - US President Barack Obama on Monday assured the Philippines of his government’s support in the latter’s territorial dispute with China – but it’s not the support the public was expecting.

“Today we reaffirmed the importance of resolving territorial disputes in the region peacefully without intimidation or coercion. And in that spirit supports [President Benigno Aquino III’s] decision to pursue international arbitration concerning territorial disputes in the South China Sea,” Obama said in a joint press conference with Aquino at the Malacañang Palace.

Not confronting China

Asked if the US will defend the Philippines in case territorial disputes in the South China Sea escalate, Obama said, “Our goal is not to counter China; our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes.”


A dilapidated Philippine Navy ship LT 57 (Sierra Madre) with Philippine troops deployed on board is anchored off Second Thomas Shoal (local name: Ayungin Shoal) Saturday, March 29, 2014 off West Philippine Sea. An hour from the shoal, the Chinese coast guard ship closed in on the Philippines supply vessel and twice crossed its bow. AP PHOTO/BULLIT MARQUEZ

He said the US welcomes China’s “peaceful rise” amid its “constructive relationship” and “enormous trade” with the nation.

“And really our message to China consistently in a whole range of issues is we want be a partner with you in upholding international law,” he added.

“When we met in the Oval Office two years ago, Benigno and I agreed to promote a common set of rules founded in respect for international law that will help the Asia Pacific remain open and inclusive as the region grows and develop,” Obama explained.

Nevertheless, the US President said the two countries will work together to “build the Philippines’ defense capabilities.”
“I am pleased that we are beginning an important new chapter in the relationship between our countries. And it starts with our security, with the new defense cooperation agreement that was signed today,” he said, referring to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which will allow US forces’ access to Philippine military facilities.

“We don’t even take a specific position on the disputes between nations but as a matter of international law and international norms we don’t think that coercion and intimidation is the way to manage these disputes,” Obama said. He added that when the US has disputes with its neighbors, it works them out through dialogue. “We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks.”

With its anemic military, the Philippines has struggled to bolster its territorial defense amid China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, which Obama flew over on his way here, according to the Air Force One cockpit. Chinese paramilitary ships took effective control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground off the northwestern Philippines, in 2012. Last year, Chinese coast guard ships surrounded another contested offshore South China Sea territory, the Second Thomas Shoal.

Aquino, standing next to Obama in front of a lush backdrop of tropical plants, said the new agreement with the US “takes our security cooperation to a higher level of engagement … and promotes regional peace and stability.”

Still, the US increased military role has raised objections from some Filipinos and led to recent clashes outside the US Embassy between police and more than 100 left-wing activists who protested Obama’s visit and the new security arrangement.

Activists say the agreement reverses democratic gains achieved when huge US military bases were shut down in the early 1990s, ending nearly a century of American military presence in the Philippines, a sensitive issue in this former US colony.

No US bases

But the visiting president was cautious with the controversial subject, pointing out that the US will not have permanent bases in the Philippines.

“I want to be very clear. The United States is not trying to reclaim old bases or build new bases. By the invitation of the Philippines, American service members will rotate through Filipino facilities will train and exercise more together so that we’re prepared for a range of challenges including humanitarian crises and natural disasters like Yolanda,” Obama said.

He added that the agreement should help build Philippine capacity “not simply to deal with issues of maritime security.”
“If there are additional threats that may arise, that we are able to work in a cooperative fashion,” Obama said.

More US investments?

The US President heralded the Philippines continuous economic growth, promising support from their business sector.

“I congratulated President Aquino on the reforms that he’s pursued to make the Philippines more competitive, through our partnership for growth and our Millennium Challenge Corporation compact. We are going keep working together to support these efforts so that more Filipinos can share in this nation’s economic progress because growth has to be broad-based and it has to be inclusive,” he said.

Obama also added that US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will be bringing a delegation of American businessmen to the Philippines in June “to explore new opportunities.”

Trans-Pacific partnership

Meanwhile, he advised Aquino to engage in the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“We discussed the steps that the Philippines could take to position itself for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and I encouraged the President to seize the opportunity that he’s created by opening the next phase of economic reform and growth,” Obama said.

The TPP has been met with opposition in the Philippines, especially after it was suggested that inclusion would mean amending the Philippine Constitution.

The TPP is a free trade agreement being negotiated by 12 countries, led by the US. It is meant to open up economies in Asia and the Pacific. The other 11 countries are Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

Aquino had earlier said he was not keen on charter change but during the joint press conference he said the Philippines “is working to ascertain how participation in TPP can be realized.”

He described the TPP as a “high standard trade arrangement that will shape the global and regional economic architecture in the 21st century.”

Hours before Obama arrived in Manila, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) at Camp Aguinaldo, paving the way for US access to Philippine military facilities in the next 10 years.

Obama’s state visit to the Philippines is the last leg of his Asian tour, following his stopover in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia over the past several days. It is part of the US campaign to re-balance its forces in the region amid China’s increasing political and military strength. With a report from Associated Press

No firm commitment from US to defend PH Obama: Goal not to counter China
By Christian V. Esguerra, TJ A. Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:23 am | Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

LAST STOP. US President Barack Obama: Manila is last stop on his tour of the Asia-Pacific region that also took in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. EDWIN BACASMAS

MANILA, Philippines—Three hours before Air Force One touched down in Manila on Monday, the Aquino administration gifted US President Barack Obama with what he primarily came here for: a 10-year defense agreement allowing more American troops in the Philippines.

But in turn, Obama gave no categorical commitment whether the 62-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries—the backbone of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg—would apply in case the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China escalates into an armed confrontation.

Steering clear of the question, Obama instead pointed to Beijing’s “interest” in abiding by international law, saying “larger countries have a greater responsibility” to do so.

“Our goal is not to counter China; our goal is not to contain China,” he said in a joint press conference with President Aquino in Malacañang, reflecting a delicate balancing act throughout his weeklong trip that earlier took him to Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

“Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes.”

“We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks,” Obama said.

He said the objectives of the new deal were not limited to “issues of maritime security.”

Besides assisting the Philippines in disaster response, it would also cover “additional threats that may arise that we are able to work in a cooperative fashion,” he said.

In a speech during the state dinner, Obama said: “We are honored and proud to call you an ally and a friend. Through our treaty alliance, the United States has an ironclad commitment to defend you, your security and your independence.”

Unlike Japan, the Philippines, the United States’ oldest defense treaty ally in Asia, got no unequivocal statement from Obama that Washington would come to Manila’s defense in the event of an armed conflict with Beijing over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

During the first leg of his Asian trip in Japan, Obama said: “Our commitment to Japan’s security is absolute and Article 5 [of the security treaty] covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands.”

Article 5 of the 1951 MDT states that “an armed attack on either of the parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

Obama reiterated his position that the United States had no “specific position on the disputes between nations.” But he said he was “very supportive” of the Philippine decision “to seek international arbitration that can resolve this in a diplomatic fashion.”

Worth more than a few rocks

“Today, we reaffirm the importance of resolving territorial disputes in the region peacefully without intimidation or coercions. And in that spirit, I told him (Mr. Aquino) that the United States supports his decision to pursue international arbitration concerning territorial disputes in the South China Sea,” he said in a prepared statement.

“As a matter of international law and international norms, we don’t think that coercion and intimidation is the way to manage these disputes,” he said.

Aquino downplayed the dispute with China in the context of Manila’s economic and diplomatic relations with Beijing, saying it was “the only sour point in our relationship.”

“Trying to find a way and means by which we can both achieve our respective goals, which I believe are not or should not be mutually exclusive but rather should be inclusive if, at the end of the day, we do want to strive for the prosperity of our respective peoples,” he said.

“That I think has to be the primordial concern rather than disputes on a few rocks that are not possible to be inhabited,” Aquino said.

China’s state media earlier said Washington’s “rebalancing strategy smacks of a carefully calculated scheme to cage the rapidly developing Asian giant by rallying US allies and reinforcing US presence.”

Under his so-called “pivot” to Asia, Obama said the United States was “renewing our leadership in the Asia-Pacific and our engagement is rooted in our alliances, and that includes the Philippines, which is the oldest security treaty alliance that we have in Asia.”

“Given its strategic location, the Philippines is a better partner on issues such as maritime security and freedom of navigation,” he said.

US welcomes peaceful China

Obama insisted that the United States welcomed the “peaceful rise” of China, its biggest foreign creditor, pointing to their countries’ “constructive relationship” that involves “enormous trade” and “enormous business.”

“I think that it is good for the region and good for the world if China is successfully developing, if China is lifting more of its people out of poverty,” he said.

“My hope is that, at some point, we’re going to be able to work cooperatively with China as well. Because our goal here is simply to make sure that everybody is operating in a peaceful, responsible fashion.”

Obama cited the “greater responsibility” of countries like the United States and China “in abiding by international norms and rules because when we move, it can worry smaller countries if we don’t do it in a way that’s consistent with international law.”

He said the four US allies he visited during his Asian swing had a singular message of resolving territorial disputes with China “peacefully and diplomatically.”

“If China, I think, listens to its neighbors and recognizes that there is another approach to resolve these disputes, what China will find is this—they have got ready and willing partners throughout the Asia-Pacific region that want to work with them on trade and commerce and selling goods and buying goods,” he said.

“And it’s inevitable that China is going to be a dominant power in this region just by sure size. Nobody, I think, denies that.”

Obama sought to allay fears in some Philippine sectors that Washington was reopening its bases in the Philippines, shut down in 1991. “I want to be very clear. The United States is not trying to reclaim old bases, or build new bases. At the invitation of the Philippines, American service members will rotate through Filipino facilities,” he said in prepared remarks.

Edca no threat to China

The idea behind the agreement was to work together to “build the Philippines’ defense capabilities,” Obama said.
To do this, Obama said American troops and their Filipino counterparts would “train and exercise more together” to be prepared for a range of challenges, including humanitarian crisis and natural disasters.

Aquino agreed with Obama. “First of all, I think China shouldn’t be concerned about this agreement, especially if you look at what is being contemplated, for instance, training, for instance, in disaster relief operations,” he said.

“The Americans have the V-22 Osprey aircraft, which has quite a significant upgrade in capabilities in terms of reaching out to very remote areas. We don’t have a comparable aircraft. We have smaller helicopters. And we have 44 of our provinces devastated by [Super Typhoon] Haiyan (Yolanda),” Obama said.

The Edca takes security cooperation, Aquino said, “to a higher level of engagement, reaffirms our countries’ commitment to mutual defense and security, and promotes regional peace and stability.”

Obama said the new deal was a way of updating “decades of alliance” between Washington and Manila in the 21st century.

“And the goal for this agreement is to build Philippine capacity, to engage in training, engage in coordination—not simply to deal with issues of maritime security, but also to enhance our capabilities so that if there’s a natural disaster that takes place, we are able to potentially respond more quickly,” Obama said.

“If there are additional threats that may arise, that we are able to work in a cooperative fashion,” he added.

Obama arrives in Manila By Kristine Angeli Sabillo INQUIRER.net 1:41 pm | Monday, April 28th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – US President Barack Obama arrived in Manila on Monday afternoon for his two-day state visit in the country.

Obama arrived on Air Force One at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 1:26 p.m., a couple of hours after the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed at Camp Aguinaldo.

He was greeted by honor guards and received by Vice President Jejomar Binay, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia.

The visiting president and his party then boarded the Marine One Presidential Helicopter that would bring them to Malacañang.

He is in the Philippines for the first time to meet with President Benigno Aquino III and to strengthen the ties between the two countries.

The Philippines is the last stop of Obama’s Asian tour—he had previously visited Japan, South Korea and Malaysia—which is part of the US bid to rebalance its forces in the region amid China’s increasing political and military might.

The signing of the EDCA, which will allow US troops to access Philippine military facilities, by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg came just in time for Obama’s visit, prompting critics to claim that it was rushed “as a gift” to the visiting US President.

Obama will be heading straight to Malacañang to meet with Aquino. The bilateral meeting will be followed by a joint conference and a dinner reception.

On Tuesday, the US President will meet with members of the business sector and then with the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Fort Bonifacio. He is expected to visit the Manila American cemetery before leaving the country around noontime.

Aquino welcomes Obama in Malacañang By Kristine Angeli Sabillo INQUIRER.net 2:17 pm | Monday, April 28th, 2014


US President Barack Obama ( front, L) along with Philippine President Benigno Aquino walk prior to inspecting the honour guard during a welcoming ceremeony at the Malacanang Palace grounds in Manila on April 28, 2014. President Barack Obama landed in the Philippines April 28 to cement new defence ties on the last leg of an Asian tour conducted against a backdrop of territorial tensions between US allies and China. AFP

MANILA, Philippines – US President Barack Obama was welcomed by President Benigno Aquino III on Monday afternoon at Malacañang, the first stop of his two-day state visit in the country.

The two heads of state attended the customary Welcome Ceremony at the Malacañang Palace grounds around 2:15 p.m.
Obama arrived in front of Bonifacio Hall (formerly Premier Guest House) on a limousine, after traveling to the compound on the Marine One Presidential Helicopter from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

During the Welcome Ceremony, the national anthems of the Philippines and the United States were played while a 21-gun salute was being rendered.

The two leaders then inspected the troops, followed by the Commander of the Honor Guards sheathing his sword and saluting Obama to mark the end of the ceremony.

Aquino introduced Obama to several Cabinet members including Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. The gesture was returned by Obama who introduced Aquino to the US officials including National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

After the introductions, Aquino and Obama listened to the playing of Pangkat Kawayan (Bamboo Orchestra).

But before heading inside to sign the official guestbook at the Reception Hall, Obama took his time to shake hands with employees of the Office of the President who were waving flaglets of the US and the Philippines.

Both Aquino and Obama later entered the Malacañang Palace for the signing of the official guestbook before proceeding to the expanded bilateral meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room.

During their meeting, they tackled various issues of mutual interest, including defense and security, trade and investment, tourism and development cooperation, before facing the media for a joint press conference.

The two presidents are expected to discuss the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that will give US forces access to Philippine military facilities. The document, which is said to advance the implementation of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), was crafted as the US rebalances its forces in Asia amid increasing Chinese strength and territorial disputes in the region.

In the evening, Aquino will host a dinner reception for Obama attended by government officials and other special guests.

Obama will eat Filipino seafood for dinner – report INQUIRER.net 4:29 pm | Monday, April 28th, 2014


SHANGRILA IN MAKATI

MANILA, Philippines – On his first state visit to the Philippines, US President Barack Obama will have a taste of Filipino seafood for dinner, a radio report said.

The report, quoting the executive cook of the Makati Shangri-La which will host the state dinner later, said one of the main dishes is lobster from Guimaras island, which the chef claimed is among the “best lobster in the country.”

“I was in Guimaras, they tell me that our lobster is best in the island, one of the best lobsters in the country,” Shangri-La executive chef Gene Del Prado said in the report.


PHILIPPINE LOBSTER FROM GUIMARAS ISLAND

The hotel will also serve Obama “lapu-lapu” (Grouper fish) spiced with “pili nuts,” the report said.

Obama will also be served “pochero,” a type of meat stew, this time using shell fish, it added.

For dessert, meanwhile, the US president will be served Guimaras mango and buko lychee ice cream for dessert.

Obama is in the country for the last leg of his Asian tour, part of the US bid to rebalance its forces in the region amid China’s increasing political and military might.

The US president started his state visit just hours after the signing of an agreement between the country and US allowing an increased presence of American troops in the former US colony.

Santiago: Defense pact will further antagonize China By Matikas Santos INQUIRER.net 3:58 pm | Monday, April 28th, 2014


SANTIAGO

MANILA, Philippines—Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) will further antagonize China.

“Definitely the new Agreement, whatever it may contain, will further antagonize China because in effect, we consent that the Philippines should be listed under the American column, instead of the China column,” Santaigo said in a statement Monday.

“If China reaches out to Russia while the Ukraine issue continues to simmer, the US will certainly call on the Philippines to fulfil treaty obligation under the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty,” she said.

The agreement was signed by US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin after eight rounds of negotiations over two years.

Philippines and China are locked in a maritime dispute over the Spratly Group of Islands and Scarborough shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) with several incidents of Chinese ships expelling Filipino boats from the area.

The agreement allows US military troops access to Philippine military bases as well as to construct buildings in the bases which will be owned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) upon completion.

Militant groups are protesting the agreement saying that it violates the Philippine constitution for allowing “de facto US basing.”

“No matter how much the US denies it, US troops have been stationed in the Philippines since 2002 under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr., said in a statement.

“Goldberg’s denials on permanent basing are worthless,” he said.

Santiago said that the agreement was an “unfair surprise” for the Senate because it needs to concur on treaties or agreements before they can take effect.

“This is an unfair surprise on the Philippines Senate which, under the Constitution, shares the treaty-making power with the President,” Santiago said.

“Obviously, I have no basis for assessing whether the Agreement is positive for my country. The Senate has not been given the courtesy of being furnished with a copy. I feel as if I have been slapped, or ordered to melt into the wallpaper,” she said.

Santiago, in previous interviews, pointed out three constitutional provisions that the agreement would violate:
1. “Foreign military bases, troops, or facilities, shall not be allowed in the Philippines, except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate. . . .” (Art. 18, Sec. 25)

2. “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.” (Art. 7, Sec. 21. Emphasis added.)

3. “The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.” (Art. 2, Sec. 8)

“The Agreement would set an extremely bad precedent. It would be a case of interpreting the Constitution to accommodate the military program of a foreign state. That eventuality defies all principles of constitutional supremacy,” Santiago said.

US pact will strengthen PH defense – Palace By Kristine Angeli Sabillo INQUIRER.net 11:08 am | Monday, April 28th, 2014


Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, left, and U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg smile after signing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement at Camp Aguinaldo, Philippine military headquarters in suburban Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines on Monday, April 28, 2014. The U.S. military will have greater access to bases across the Philippines under the new 10-year agreement signed Monday in conjunction with U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit and seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region. AP

MANILA, Philippines – Amid hard opposition by critics, Malacañang on Monday said it was confident that the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will strengthen the country’s defense capabilities.

“The agreement opens wider opportunities for developing our self-defense capabilities and strengthening maritime security and marine domain awareness at a time of evolving and rapidly changing global and regional realities,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.

“These are vital elements in the continuing efforts of both countries to work in solidarity with the international community in attaining the shared goal of regional peace and stability,” he added.

The Secretary explained that the EDCA, which allows US access to Philippine military facilities, affirmed “the robust and enduring partnership” between the United States and the Philippines.

The signing of the EDCA on Monday morning came hours before US President Barack Obama’s first state visit to the Philippines, the last stop of his Asian tour.

US is currently working on its rebalancing act in Asia amid the rising power of China, which threatens its influence in the region.

FROM PHILSTAR

China urged: Listen to your neighbors By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 29, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


US Secret Service snipers use binoculars at the NAIA Terminal 3 tarmac prior to the arrival of Air Force One carrying US President Barack Obama yesterday. VAL RORIGUEZ

MANILA, Philippines - By listening to its neighbors, China can realize that they are not adversaries but “willing partners” in its quest for regional development and stability, visiting US President Barack Obama said yesterday.

Asked to comment on China’s growing aggressiveness in staking its claims in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, Obama said the emerging super power should show good faith and commitment to resolve its territorial disputes with its neighbors peacefully.

“If China, I think, listens to its neighbors and recognizes that there is another approach to resolve these disputes, what China will find is this – they’ve got ready and willing partners throughout the Asia Pacific region that want to work with them on trade and commerce and selling goods and buying goods,” Obama said in a joint press briefing at Malacañang with President Aquino shortly after his arrival yesterday for a two-day state visit.

The Philippines is the final leg of his four-nation Asian tour.

“And it’s inevitable that China is going to be a dominant power in this region just by pure size. Nobody, I think, denies that,” he said.

“We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks. What we do is we sit down and we have some people in the room,” he said.

“It’s boring, it’s not exciting but it’s usually a good way to work out these problems and work out these issues,” he pointed out.

“And I think that all the countries that I had spoken to in the region during the course of my trip – Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and now the Philippines – their message has been the same, everywhere I go, which is: They would like to resolve these issues peacefully and diplomatically,” he added.

He called the Philippines’ approach to resolving its dispute with China “a sound one.”

Manila has brought the dispute before an international arbitral tribunal, a tack rejected by China.

Obama also stressed that he had no desire to contain or counter China despite clinching a defense pact with the Philippines.

China’s claims to various islands, reefs and atolls in the South and East China Seas have been a constant theme of Obama’s tour of countries which fear being squeezed by the giant nation’s emergence as a regional superpower.

Obama faced a delicate task in Manila as he sought to reassure an ally concerned about an increasingly assertive China, but to avoid worsening tense China-US ties by antagonizing leaders in Beijing.

“We welcome China’s peaceful rise. We have a constructive relationship with China,” Obama said.

“Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China,” Obama said, taking on suspicions in Beijing that his policy of rebalancing power towards the Asia-Pacific was tantamount to encirclement.

The US leader said that Washington did not take a position on the sovereignty of disputed territories variously claimed by China, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam.

But he said that, as an Asia-Pacific nation, the United States was interested in the freedom of navigation and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

“As a matter of international law and international norms, we don’t think coercion and intimidation is the way to manage these disputes,” he said.

Obama expressed hope that at some point, countries would be able to work cooperatively with China since the goal was simply to make sure that everybody was operating in peaceful and responsible fashion.

“When that happens, that allows countries to focus on what is more important to people day-to-day, and that is prosperity, growth, jobs,” he said.

“You know, 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 focusing,” Obama said.

In a state dinner hosted for him by President Aquino last night. Obama cited America’s “ironclad commitment to defend you, your security and your independence” through the two countries’ treaty alliance.

While there was no mention of China unlike in the earlier joint press conference with Aquino, Obama said Aquino and the Filipino people “bring that same strength and solidarity to our alliance.”

“So let me say tonight on behalf of the American people, we are honored and proud to call you an ally and a friend,” Obama said in his toast during the state dinner at the Rizal Hall of the Palace. – With Jaime Laude

FROM THE INQUIRER

Editorial: Unfinished business Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:39 am | Monday, April 28th, 2014


OBAMA

Barack Obama, the seventh sitting US president to visit the Philippines, arrives today to discuss defense and security issues that may well have a bearing on the next generation of Filipinos. President Aquino will honor his country’s highest interests if he uses the opportunity to also remind Obama of America’s unfinished business in the Philippines.

After Dwight Eisenhower in 1960, Lyndon Johnson in 1966, Richard Nixon in 1969, Gerald Ford in 1975, Bill Clinton in 1994 and 1996 and George W. Bush (who couldn’t be bothered to spare more than a few hours) in 2003, it is Obama’s turn to visit. We have no doubt that the first black American president, much more popular abroad than in his closely divided nation, will meet an enthusiastic reception from a US-friendly population.

And the timing, while delayed, is still right. China’s increasing recklessness in asserting its maritime and territorial claims in the region has forced many countries to review its relationship with the United States. The declaration of the so-called US pivot to Asia in 2011 was welcomed by many regional capitals, because the United States remains the only credible counterweight to China.

But the delay points to Obama’s problem; his visit, originally scheduled for October last year, had to be postponed because American partisan politics caused a shutdown of the US federal government. Behind the generally positive reception to Obama’s pivot to Asia, then, is widespread concern that the American president does not in fact have the political support to fund it or follow through on it.

Obama’s week-long, four-country swing through the region is meant precisely to assuage those and related concerns: In Japan and in South Korea, he reiterated American commitment to come to those countries’ defense in the event of war; in Malaysia (as in Japan), he emphasized the economic aspect of the American pivot.

And in the Philippines? We can expect him to praise the recently concluded peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to laud the Aquino administration’s continuing campaign against corruption, to recognize the country’s steady economic growth—and to continue to offer support for the modernization of the Philippine military.

We do not expect him to mention the dispute with China specifically; indeed, we fully expect him to hew to the original American line on maritime disputes dating to the early years of the 20th century: He will not take sides. But he will probably refer to the signing of the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation, which is scheduled to take place this morning, as an unmistakable sign of increased American support. The context will not be in doubt: China’s less than peaceful rise to power.

But this same agreement is also a symbol for something else altogether: The continuing, and fundamental, inequality in Philippine-American relations. We have long advocated that any enhancement in defense cooperation between the Philippines and the United States must have the consent of the Senate, because the agreement is for all intents and purposes another military treaty. Malacañang’s refusal to submit the agreement to a largely friendly Senate is inexplicable.

But consider. One primary reason Manila refuses to negotiate directly with Beijing on our conflicting claims, preferring the multilateral diplomacy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or the international forums provided by the United Nations, is the reasonable assumption that Beijing will use bilateral negotiations to have its way.

That is the same concern critics of the still-unseen Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation have raised: In the negotiations, the United States may have used its political and economic power to get concessions not necessarily in the long-term interest of the Philippines.

The agreement is fine as long as American policies (e.g., the pivot to Asia) are seen to coincide with Philippine needs. But the lessons of history are all too clear: America’s interests are its own. This explains why, despite numerous official acknowledgments about the toxic legacy American forces left behind in Clark and Subic over 20 years ago, the United States has failed to properly dispose of the toxic waste. This explains why, 15 months after the USS Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef, the fine of $1.4 million remains unpaid. Time to remind Mr. Obama that these and other items of unfinished business have been tabled long enough.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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