BY FVR: WELCOMING CLOSE NEIGHBOR PRESIDENT OBAMA

by Former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos - “A good neighbor is better than a distant relative.” – Ancient Chinese proverb Although Filipinos cannot claim to be genetically related by consanguinity or by affinity to US President Barack Obama (who is a remarkable American-African combination), he is in reality a close neighbor, even if not a distant relative. In not just the geographical aspect but in various socio-cultural dimensions, Obama is more like us than other ethnic components of our diversified Philippine society, such as the Tsinoys. The closeness of the time and distance factors between our two countries, however, is not easily seen by the ordinary layman – much less appreciated. The US Is Closer Than You Think- President ObamaNevertheless, in terms of military access, the US is really nearer the Philippines than we think – if we look at nearby neighbor Guam (a US territory), which is America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier and key to US forward deployment in the Asia-Pacific. READ IN FULL...

ALSO: West Philippine Sea: Can we negotiate with China?

Nowadays, any serious discussion on China has become increasingly contentious. While scholars who choose to highlight the great achievements and civilizational sophistication of the country tend to be branded as “pro-China” and “naive”, sober analysts of Beijing’s rising territorial assertiveness, in turn, tend to be branded as “warmonger” and “pro-Western”. The growing polarization of the discourse over China, in my opinion, has undermined the ability of many scholars and policy-makers to thoroughly analyze the nuances of the country’s emergence as a global power. And this has -- and continues to -- contribute to a binary understanding of China among the general populace. A careful analysis of China’s foreign policy trajectory, however, suggests that the country’s sweeping territorial assertiveness is a fairly recent phenomenon, which could either be a reflection of a permanent shift in its foreign policy doctrine, or, alternatively, a temporary reversal in its largely peaceful rise. Understanding China’s national psyche and the evolution of its foreign policy should serve as an important cornerstone of our strategy in the West Philippine Sea. Otherwise, we may risk a self-fulfilling prophecy of a region-wide maritime conflict. READ IN FULL...

ALSO: Palace mum on defense pact with US

Malacañang has given no indication whether the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States will be ready for signing by tomorrow’s visit of US President Barack Obama. “We will await word from the panel,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said yesterday. Coloma said nothing in the deal would come as a surprise since the provisions had been discussed publicly. “Any agreement with any country will be open for public scrutiny in keeping with the administration’s commitment to transparency, accountability and good governance,” he said. Philippine panel chairman Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said the Philippines and the US panels are in continuing consultations on the agreement and will give “progress updates.” The agreement is supposed to be the centerpiece of Obama’s visit but Malacañang said inter-agency vetting must be done as regards the implementation of the accord. READ MORE...

ALSO: Political positions of Benigno Aquino III

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has made political position on many national issues. Benigno Aquino III is opposed to plans to restart the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Aquino is not keen on utilizing nuclear energy as a remedy to a power shortage Mindanao experienced in the second quarter of 2012. Aquino said that while he is open to adopt nuclear energy he is more inclined to tap “other sources of energy that have less impact – or potential negative impact – that are available to us. While Aquino remained open to nuclear energy he has publicly expressed his opposition to plans to revive the moth-balled Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Environmental Policy --During an interview in CNN in November 2013, Aquino said that countries “contributing immensely to the global warning” have a moral responsibility to contribute to end climate change. Financial Policy-- Priority Development Assistance Fund Following the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, Aquino initially insisted that the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF is unnecessary. Aquino later detracted from his earlier statement and vowed to abolish the fund and replace it with a new system. READ MORE...

ALSO: PHL wants ‘clearer’ statement of support from US in West PHL Sea dispute

President Benigno Aquino III will be clarifying the terms of support of the United States to the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute during US President Barack Obama's visit next week, Malacañang hinted Wednesday. At a press conference, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino and Obama will discuss defense, political, security cooperation between the two countries. "From the Philippine perspective, we would like to be able to arrive at a clearer understanding with the US on important aspects of the strategic partnership... and we can be sure that President Aquino will take up with President Obama what he considers to be the primary or priority concerns of the government," he said. Asked what particular aspect requires "clearer understanding," Coloma cited the "evolving and changing realities in global and regional security." "It is apparent that the situation in the South China Sea is part of that evolving situation. And this has been addressed directly by the US and the Philippines in the last few months," he said, without elaborating.


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Welcoming close neighbor President Obama

MANILA, APRIL 28, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos - “A good neighbor is better than a distant relative.” – Ancient Chinese proverb

Although Filipinos cannot claim to be genetically related by consanguinity or by affinity to US President Barack Obama (who is a remarkable American-African combination), he is in reality a close neighbor, even if not a distant relative.

In not just the geographical aspect but in various socio-cultural dimensions, Obama is more like us than other ethnic components of our diversified Philippine society, such as the Tsinoys. The closeness of the time and distance factors between our two countries, however, is not easily seen by the ordinary layman – much less appreciated.

The US Is Closer Than You Think

Nevertheless, in terms of military access, the US is really nearer the Philippines than we think – if we look at nearby neighbor Guam (a US territory), which is America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier and key to US forward deployment in the Asia-Pacific.

Aside from Army and Marine units, Guam hosts the upgraded Apra Naval Base and Andersen Air Force Base – now major components of the US Pacific Command. Compared to traditional homeports in California or Hawaii, these Guam outfits enable US strike forces to reach Asia and beyond within much shorter transit times.

The distance from Guam to Manila is 1,700 miles – or only 2 days’ sailing time for a carrier fleet and just two hours’ flight by supersonic military aircraft. On the other hand, from San Diego to Manila is fully nine days of sailing, while Honolulu is seven days away from here.

President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines on 28-29 April should be welcomed warmly by Filipinos, given his liberal, anti-race prejudice, pro-minority and pro-poor tendencies that were developed throughout his youth and professional career. Also impressive is his immersion in a diversity of cultures and social justice advocacies as a young Pacific islander.

In our midst, Barack could be entitled — and even encouraged — to modify the spelling of his name to “Baracko ‘Bama,” to give him the special “flavor” that is endearing to Filipinos (particularly Batangueños) as the barako (i.e. macho, maverick, risk-taker) champion of the oppressed and the disadvantaged.

Preparations For Leadership

Leadership is what Baracko prepared himself for, labored for and sacrificed for. His burning desire to excel was not just to satisfy a grand ambition, but to better serve suffering and unjustly treated minorities in the New York and Chicago slums.

A deep social conscience motivated ‘Bama to organize and train poor people so that they could help not only themselves but others in more difficult circumstances than their own. His drive for excellence overcame racial barriers, and vaulted him through Columbia University and Harvard Law School as an outstanding student in these Ivy League institutions.

Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” (1995), describes Barack’s grandfather, Onyango, as a respected elder of the Kenyan Luo tribe, who had such strong qualities of caring, sharing, and daring for his community that he was known for having “ants in his anus” (or “fire in his belly”). The same was said about Onyango’s son, Barack Sr. (which means “Blessed” in Arabic). It is presumed that their genes, fires, and ants flowed into Barack II – the latter-day Barry (Barack’s nickname during his youth) who is now US President.

There are valuable lessons for “wannabe” Presidents of the Philippines to be learned from Baracko ‘Bama, the public servant.

Among them: his humility, perseverance, honesty, industry, and sense of teamwork. What could be his most precious legacy to the American people – and to the world — after eight years of the US Presidency (and beyond) could well be his AUDACITY OF HOPE as a reformist model for leaders in our globalized world.

How many Filipino leaders aspiring for high office, one wonders, have the “fire in the belly” to reform and reinvent themselves so that they could be of better service to their constituents? Not many. Anyway, that’s not the rule here in the Philippines, but the exception.

Is The US Pivot For Real?

From Washington, DC, Reuters reported (18 April): “When a Philippine government ship evaded a Chinese blockade in disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea last month, a US Navy plane swooped in to witness the dramatic encounter.

“That flyover was a vivid illustration of the expanding significance of the strategic Asia-Pacific region and underscored a message that President Barack Obama will make in Asia:

“THE ‘PIVOT’ OF US MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ASSETS TOWARD THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION IS REAL.

“His toughest challenge will be to reassure skeptical leaders that the US intends to be more than just a casual observer and instead is genuinely committed to countering an increasingly assertive China.

“Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea – and perceptions of limited US options to get Putin to back down – has heightened unease in Japan, the Philippines, and elsewhere about Beijing’s territorial claims.

“There is also suspicion among Asian allies that if they come under threat from China, the US – despite treaty obligations to come to their aid – might craft a response aimed more at controlling damage to its own vital relationship with China.”

For Obama, the tricky part of the trip will be deciding how to set limits on China in a way that soothes US allies in Asia but avoids stoking tensions with Beijing.

The TPP US-Asia Economic Alliance

Agence France Presse reported (20 April): “The White House said that the President would restate staunch US support for its friends, underline its role as a Pacific power, and seek to reassure the region that his Asia ‘rebalancing’ strategy is not running out of steam.

“Obama will also attempt to make progress in the dragging negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, and reassure potential partners that he could get it endorsed by a reluctant Congress.

“’The President’s trip to Asia is an important opportunity to underscore our continued focus on the Asia-Pacific region,’ said Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice. ‘At a time of ongoing regional tensions, particularly with regard to North Korea and territorial disputes, the trip offers a chance for the US to affirm our commitment to a rules-based order in the region.

“’THERE’S A SIGNIFICANT DEMAND FOR US LEADERSHIP IN ASIA-PACIFIC, AND OUR STRATEGY OF REBALANCING INCLUDES ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, SECURITY AND CULTURAL INTERESTS IN NORTHEAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIA,’ RICE ADDED.”

Obama will likely emphasize that Washington wants maritime disputes in the South/East China/West Philippine Seas settled peacefully, in accordance with the rule of law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Russia-Ukraine-US-China-Asia Concerns

Before President Obama embarked on his visit to the four Asian countries, the Associated Press reported (21 April): “Obama’s advisers say they see little evidence thus far that China has been encouraged by Russia’s incursions into Ukraine.

“Instead, they say Beijing appears to be viewing with concern the Kremlin’s attempts to sway pro-Russian populations in some areas of Ukraine, given China’s own restive minorities in border regions.

“US officials also have tried to keep China from supporting Russia’s moves in Ukraine by appealing to Beijing’s well-known vehement opposition to outside intervention in another nation’s domestic affairs.

“Added National Security Adviser Susan Rice: ‘We have been talking about the importance of a strong international front to uphold principles that China and we all hold dear, i.e., the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations – the need for peaceful resolution of disputes.’

Dr. Monika Chansoria, head of the China Program of the Center for Land Warfare Studies, India, and author of the upcoming book, “Nuclear China: A Veiled Secret,” provides strong international support for the Philippine position, thus (Manila Times, 21 April): “Undaunted by China’s aggressive rhetoric and expansionist claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, the Philippines has recently filed a legal case unilaterally against Beijing with the International Arbitration Tribunal in The Hague under the UNCLOS Notwithstanding that China has declared that it would not accept or participate in international arbitration under any circumstance, Beijing does appear to be wary of the latest development, despite the fact that any final ruling by the court on the dispute cannot be enforced.”

In Asia, Obama will also confront a region that’s warily watching the Russia-driven crisis in Ukraine through the prism of its own territorial tensions with China.

What’s With Japan, US, China?

US officials have taken a tougher line on the territorial issues in recent weeks, sternly warning China against the use of military force and noting that the US has treaty obligations to defend Japan in particular.

Reuters summarized new developments (21 April): “Japan began its first military expansion at the western end of its island chain in 40 years last 19 April, breaking ground on a radar station on a tropical island off Okinawa. The move risks angering China, locked in a dispute with Japan over nearby islets which they both claim.

“Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who attended the ceremony on Yonaguni island to mark the start of construction, suggested the military presence could be enlarged to other islands southwest of Japan’s main islands. ‘This is its first deployment since the US returned Okinawa (1972).’

“The new base ‘should give Japan the ability to expand surveillance nearer to the Chinese mainland,’ said Heigo Sato, a former researcher at the Defense Ministry’s National Institute for Defense Studies. ‘It will allow early warning of missiles and supplement the monitoring of Chinese military movements.’”

OUR BOTTOMLINE

BOTH THE PHILIPPINES AND THE US NEED TO PLAY THE ASIA-PACIFIC/GLOBAL POKER GAME COOLLY – WITHOUT RESORT TO VIOLENCE, BUT MAINLY NEIGHBORLY PERSUASION. WHO WANTS TO TRIGGER WORLD WAR III? OBAMA, XI, ABE, PARK, NAJIB, AQUINO III, OR PUTIN?? MAYBE NO – THEY’RE NOT WAR FREAKS!! MAYBE KIM?? MAYBE!!!

KAYA BA NATIN ITO???

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

West Philippine Sea: Can we negotiate with China? By RICHARD JAVAD HEYDARIANApril 20, 2014 11:51am 28 88 3 335

Nowadays, any serious discussion on China has become increasingly contentious. While scholars who choose to highlight the great achievements and civilizational sophistication of the country tend to be branded as “pro-China” and “naive”, sober analysts of Beijing’s rising territorial assertiveness, in turn, tend to be branded as “warmonger” and “pro-Western”.

The growing polarization of the discourse over China, in my opinion, has undermined the ability of many scholars and policy-makers to thoroughly analyze the nuances of the country’s emergence as a global power. And this has -- and continues to -- contribute to a binary understanding of China among the general populace.

A careful analysis of China’s foreign policy trajectory, however, suggests that the country’s sweeping territorial assertiveness is a fairly recent phenomenon, which could either be a reflection of a permanent shift in its foreign policy doctrine, or, alternatively, a temporary reversal in its largely peaceful rise. Understanding China’s national psyche and the evolution of its foreign policy should serve as an important cornerstone of our strategy in the West Philippine Sea. Otherwise, we may risk a self-fulfilling prophecy of a region-wide maritime conflict.

The Great Divergence

Throughout my engagements across Asia, I noticed the significance of spatial and temporal factors in determining views with respect to China’s inexorable rise. In many parts of West Asia, for instance, a significant proportion of the society has welcomed the rise of China as a much-needed counterbalance to Western influence. Wary of Western military interventions in recent memory, there is a great appreciation of how growing Chinese strategic footprint in the Middle East could serve as a stabilizing factor.

China’s voracious appetite for hydrocarbon commodities has also underpinned the economic buoyancy of many Middle Eastern regimes, which have failed to diversify their economies amid growing youth unemployment and income inequality. In South Asian countries such as Pakistan, many people continue to hold tremendous respect for China as a reliable ally throughout their decades of existential confrontation with India. In the eyes of many, China represents a gentle and generous rising giant.

As you move farther to the east, however, one can notice a tinge of anxiety among China’s smaller neighbors to the east and south. In contrast to many Middle Eastern countries, in places such as Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam there is an opposite trend, whereby fears of an ascendant China have inspired greater strategic intimacy with the West, both the United States (US) as well as the European Union (EU).

Under the Abe administration, Tokyo is simultaneously building up its own military capabilities, while expanding arms deals and strategic cooperation with Washington. Vietnam has chosen to put aside its bitter memories of Cold War in favor of a robust, bilateral strategic partnership with a former enemy, the US. After two decades of hiatus, the Philippines is welcoming back American troops to the former Subic and Clark bases. Meanwhile, the EU has stepped up its investment and economic relations with emerging markets and democratic regimes such as the Philippines. Soon, we may see greater strategic cooperation and military inter-operability among all these actors.

The Critical Shift

Yet, I vividly recall how back in my undergraduate years, there was a huge and growing fascination with China’s soft power, even among scholars and policy-makers. Throughout the late-1990s and early-2000s, China was able to demonstrate its willingness to become a legitimate stakeholder in regional and international affairs -- a dramatic departure from its early-Cold War ideological zealotry, when China supported communist insurgencies abroad and intermittently engaged in territorial wars.

The qualitative shift in China’s foreign policy had to do with the domestic political transformation brought about by the emergence of Deng Xiaoping. He believed in a prosperous China that was guided by a pragmatic foreign policy and a calibrated diplomatic rhetoric, famously stating: "hide your strength, bide your time". Inspired by Deng’s philosophy, China was able to transform into a key source of investments, trade, and low-interest loans for many cash-strapped developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. During the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis, which ravaged Southeast Asia’s financial markets and currencies, China not only refused to implement opportunistic policies to attract Western capital, but it also played a decisive role in stabilizing the region’s economy in the succeeding years.

There are two factors, however, which may explain China’s increased territorial assertiveness in recent years. One has to with the abrupt shift in the global balance of power, largely thanks to the 2007-2008 Great Recession, which significantly undermined the hard power base of the West and Japan. In contrast, China’s economy was able to sustain high growth rates and finance a double-digit increase in its military spending. Soon, however, it also became clear that China was facing troubles at home. As China’s economy began to slow down, and a toxic combination of environmental crises, social unrest, and corruption scandals undermined the legitimacy of the ruling elite, the Chinese state began to grapple with unprecedented set of challenges.

Exploring Compromise

There is a strong correlation between the country’s domestic political challenges and its foreign policy posturing. The sudden change in the regional balance of power, meanwhile, empowered hard-liners, who called for a more assertive territorial posturing. In moments of difficulty, troubled regimes tend to show toughness abroad to strengthen their legitimacy at home. Amid an explosion of popular nationalism, the communist party can’t afford to look soft on territorial issues, which resonate across the Chinese body politic.

What is important to realize is that China is not a monolithic power, guided by a linear process of decision-making.

Thus, the best solution to the ongoing disputes in the West Philippine Sea is to hedge our bets by redressing the unfavorable balance of power in the region, which means greater strategic cooperation with allies and (more importantly) boosting our own military capabilities, while contemplating creative diplomatic ventures that allow us to avoid conflict and defend our territorial rights without openly embarrassing the Chinese leadership before a nationalistic audience at home.

After all, there are signs that the Chinese leadership cares about its international image and worries about a destructive escalation over its maritime posturing. ____________________________________________________________________________ Richard Javad Heydarian teaches political science and international relations at the Ateneo De Manila University, and is a columnist for “Asia Times” and “The Huffington Post.” As a foreign affairs specialist, he has regularly presented at varying local and international conferences and panel discussions, and been interviewed by leading media outlets such as Aljazeera, BBC, Bloomberg, CCTV, The New York Times, NPR, among other publications. He can be reached at jrheydarian@gmail.com

FROM PHILSTAR

Palace mum on defense pact with US By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 27, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has given no indication whether the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States will be ready for signing by tomorrow’s visit of US President Barack Obama.

“We will await word from the panel,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said yesterday.

Coloma said nothing in the deal would come as a surprise since the provisions had been discussed publicly.

“Any agreement with any country will be open for public scrutiny in keeping with the administration’s commitment to transparency, accountability and good governance,” he said.

Philippine panel chairman Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said the Philippines and the US panels are in continuing consultations on the agreement and will give “progress updates.”

The agreement is supposed to be the centerpiece of Obama’s visit but Malacañang said inter-agency vetting must be done as regards the implementation of the accord.

The key points of the agreement will also have to be reviewed by President Aquino.

The proposed agreement will allow the US wider access to Philippine military bases amid increasing tensions with China in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine negotiators said there was consensus on key provisions and modalities that would reflect, among others, full respect for Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops and no US military basing in the Philippines and a prohibition against weapons of mass destruction.

The draft agreement grants the US access to and use of facilities and bases of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), but it will be at the invitation of the Philippine government and with full respect for the Constitution and Philippine laws.

The accord will also include the protection of the environment, human health and safety.

The negotiators said the proposed agreement would provide the Philippines the “critical and timely support” for AFP modernization to achieve a minimum credible defense posture.

It also provides for more expeditious humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and the provision of jobs and other economic opportunities through the procurement of local goods and supplies by the US military.

FROM WIKIPEDIA

Political positions of Benigno Aquino III

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has made political position on many national issues.

Benigno Aquino III is opposed to plans to restart the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Aquino is not keen on utilizing nuclear energy as a remedy to a power shortage Mindanao experienced in the second quarter of 2012.

Aquino said that while he is open to adopt nuclear energy he is more inclined to tap “other sources of energy that have less impact – or potential negative impact – that are available to us.

While Aquino remained open to nuclear energy he has publicly expressed his opposition to plans to revive the moth-balled Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

Environmental Policy

During an interview in CNN in November 2013, Aquino said that countries “contributing immensely to the global warning” have a moral responsibility to contribute to end climate change.

Financial Policy

Priority Development Assistance Fund - Following the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, Aquino initially insisted that the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF is unnecessary. Aquino later detracted from his earlier statement and vowed to abolish the fund and replace it with a new system.

Social Policy

Abortion-- Despite his support for the Reproductive Health Bill, which was perceived by critics as a precedent to a law on legalizing abortion, Aquino insists that he is against the legalization of abortion.

Foreign land ownership

Aquino is against revising the constitution to allow full land ownership by foreigners. Aquino remains firm in keeping the 60/40 foreign ownership law which guarantees Filipinos majority share on land ownership.

Gay marriage

Aquino has yet to make a firm stance on gay marriage. During a forum at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in December 2013, Aquino was inquired on his view on gay marriage and if he was in favor of its legalization.

Aquino initially refused to answer the question but later clarified his views on the issue. He said that while he believes on universal human rights he is undecided on the legalization of gay marriage.

Aquino expressed some concerns that legalization of gay marriage may follow legalization of abortion.

He said that the issue must first be viewed on a "child's perspective".He expressed concerns that children adopted by gay marriage couples may experience gender confusion.

Reproductive Health

Aquino supported the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill. He believes on the responsibility of the state to inform couples on their right to plan their family.

Security policy

Gun ownership -- Aquino, a gun enthusiast himself, is against the imposition of a total gun ban in the country. He believes in the right to bear arms.

In May 29, 2013, Aquino signed the Republic Act No. 10591, an “Act Providing for a Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition and Providing Penalties for Violations thereof", providing a new set of standards on obtaining a license to bear firearms.

Height restriction on security personnel

Aquino vetoed a bill that would have remove height restrictions on police, fire and jail personnel.

Aquino found the bill unnecessary as a waiver can be given to applicants under certain conditions.

Aquino insists that jail personnel in particular "must possess the necessary physical attributes to perform their functions effectively".

Foreign Policy

China--- Aquino has made statements critical to China indirectly and directly.

At the 2013 ASEAN summit in Brunei, he accused China of being uncooperative after it rejected to participate in a case filed by the Philippines to the United Nations tribunal.

Aqunio also said that he is open of an idea of a joint development in the South China Sea but remained cautious and insisted that a joint development would be under Philippine law.

Aquino supports a diplomatic solution to the South China Sea dispute. He reiterated that ASEAN members should draft the Code of Conduct of Parties in the West Philippine Sea before commencing ASEAN-China talks.

Japan

Aquino supported a proposal to allow Japanese troops access to Philippine military bases along with another proposal to give American troops greater access to Philippine military installation.

Aquino views these proposals as an avenue to build a credible alliance with Japan and the United States.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

PHL wants ‘clearer’ statement of support from US in West PHL Sea dispute By KIMBERLY JANE TAN,GMA NewsApril 23, 2014 3:19pm 729 22 0 814


PHOTO COURTESY OF GMA NEWS NETWORK -New Chinese envoy presents credentials to PNoy. President Benigno Aquino III accepts the credentials of new Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during the presentation of credentials at Malacañang on Tuesday, April 8. The Philippines and China are in the middle of a territorial dispute involving portions of the South China Sea. Rolando Mailo 

President Benigno Aquino III will be clarifying the terms of support of the United States to the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute during US President Barack Obama's visit next week, Malacañang hinted Wednesday.

At a press conference, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino and Obama will discuss defense, political, security cooperation between the two countries.

"From the Philippine perspective, we would like to be able to arrive at a clearer understanding with the US on important aspects of the strategic partnership... and we can be sure that President Aquino will take up with President Obama what he considers to be the primary or priority concerns of the government," he said.

Asked what particular aspect requires "clearer understanding," Coloma cited the "evolving and changing realities in global and regional security."

"It is apparent that the situation in the South China Sea is part of that evolving situation. And this has been addressed directly by the US and the Philippines in the last few months," he said, without elaborating.

But he noted that the dialogue cannot be a one-sided proposition in favor of one party over the other. "I believe both the US and the Philippines are looking at an outcome that is mutually beneficial," he said.

Coloma added the statements of the US have been "encouraging" and affirm the cooperation and the partnership of both countries.

"The actions that they have taken are aligned with the pronouncements that they have made," he said.

Earlier this month, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said they will stand by the Philippines if it "faces threats."

The statement came at the time of increasing tensions between the Philippines and China over overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea, the term used by Manila in referring to parts of the South China Sea.

Relations between the two Asian neighbors hit a low point when the Philippines sought arbitration in January 2013 to try to declare as illegal China’s massive claim over the South China Sea because it overlaps with Manila’s territories.

Amid this development, the US and the Philippines are also in the process of negotiating the terms of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation (EDC), which will allow a greater presence of American troops in the country.

"[The EDC] continues to be discussed by both sides.... inter-agency vetting is still ongoing," Coloma said.

Coloma, however, said that he has no information whether any agreement will be signed during Obama's visit on April 28 and 29.

Obama visit

He said Obama’s visit will be the "peak" of a series of recent high-level exchanges between the US and the Philippines.

Last year, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited the country. Early this year, US Senator Marco Rubio and US Representative Ed Royce also visited Manila.

The Palace official said the US is the only defense treaty ally of the country.

But aside from political and security cooperation, he said Obama and Aquino will also discuss issues concerning trade and investment, tourism and development cooperation; and deepening people-to-people ties.

He said the US is still the Philippines’ major trading partner with total trade of $14.5 billion in 2013. It was also the second largest export destination of the Philippines last year with exports amounting to $7.8 billion, he said.

Coloma said they will also discuss the continuing support for Typhoon Yolanda victims.

From 2011 to 2013, Coloma said US assistance to the Philippines has amounted to over a billion dollars.

He said people-to-people ties between the two countries are likewise strong with an estimated number of 2.27 million Filipinos living in the US.

On the other hand, thousands of US tourists visit the Philippines every year. In 2013 alone, over 670,000 tourists from the US visited the country. — RSJ, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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