OBAMA: OUR GOAL IS NOT TO COUNTER CHINA

APRIL 28 --After reaching a new defense pact with its treaty ally, President Barack Obama said on Monday that the United States does not intend to counter China's perceived increasing aggression in the West Philippine Sea. In a televised joint press conference with President Benigno Aquino III in Malacañang, Obama said their goal is to simply ensure that countries are operating in a peaceful and responsible manner "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 dispute," Obama told reporters after holding an expanded bilateral meeting on Monday afternoon. Obama, however, assured that the US is supportive of the Philippines' move to bring the territorial dispute before an arbitration tribunal. He said this approach by the Philippine government is a "sound" one. The American leader said the US is not taking a specific position on the territorial disputes between nations. However, he said that as a matter of international law and international norms, Obama said coercion and intimidation is not the way to manage the overlapping territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea. Obama 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," Obama said. Aquino, on the other hand, assured that the Philippines does not post danger to any country, even if it has inked a new defense pact with the US. READ MORE...

ALSO: What Obama wrote in Malacañang Palace guestbook

US President Barack Obama expressed his gratitude for allowing him to visit Manila on Monday in his inscription in the guestbook of Malacañan Palace. "I thank President Aquino and the people of the Philippines for welcoming me," Obama said in the hand-written note. "May America's oldest alliance in Asia always be renewed by our friendship and mutual respect," Obama wrote on the guestbook before placing his signature. US President Obama's note in the Malacañang guest book. Official Gazette READ IN FULL...

ALSO: Philippines, US sign landmark defense deal

PHOTO -Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, left, shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg 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. Hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama, the Philippines and the United States signed on Monday morning a 10-year agreement allowing American soldiers to have greater access to military bases in the country. The deal, formally known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassor to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg past 10 a.m. In his speech, Goldberg said the EDCA will take the Philippines-US relations to a "new and higher level" and it will be an important part of the existing Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement frameworks. READ MORE...

(ALSO) Obama: No US bases; Will not re-establish nor build new ones

The United States will not reestablish its military bases or build new ones in the Philippines even with the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries, US President Barack Obama said yesterday. The 10-year agreement, signed yesterday by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg shortly before the arrival of Obama, would allow American troops to build facilities within Philippine bases in a move seen to upgrade Manila’s equipment-deficient military. In a joint briefing at Malacañang with President Aquino, Obama said he wanted “to be very clear” that the US “is not trying to reclaim old bases or build new bases.” He called the signing of the EDCA the “beginning of an important new chapter in a relationship between our countries.” He pointed out that at the invitation of the Philippines, “American service members will rotate to Filipino facilities” to address a range of challenges, including humanitarian crisis and natural disasters like Super Typhoon Yolanda. “We’ll work together to build the Philippines’ defense capabilities and work with other nations to promote regional stability, such as in the South China Sea,” he said. READ MORE...

(ALSO) Obama on Yolanda reconstruction: We stand with you

The US is standing by the Philippines in its efforts to recover and rebuild from the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda. US President Barack Obama gave this assurance during a joint press conference with President Aquino after their expanded bilateral meeting in Malacañang yesterday, noting that the partnership between the two countries reflects the important Filipino concept of bayanihan or standing shoulder-to-shoulder. “The idea that we have to work together to accomplish things that we couldn’t achieve on our own – that’s what we saw last year when Typhoon Yolanda devastated so many communities,” he said. “Our Armed Forces and civilians from both our countries worked as one to rescue victims and to deliver life-saving aid – that’s what friends do for each other. And Mr. President, I want to say to you and the people of the Philippines, the United States will continue to stand with you as you recover and rebuild. Our commitment to the Philippines will not waver,” he added. He said the US is committed to work together with the Philippines to address the devastating effects of climate change and to make its communities less vulnerable to extreme storms like Yolanda. Aquino, for his part, thanked the US for the immediate outpouring of assistance in the aftermath of Yolanda and its clear expression of solidarity with the typhoon’s survivors. “Mr. President, in your State of the Union Address early this year, you spoke of how American volunteers and troops were greeted with gratitude in the affected areas. Today, I reiterate formally: the Filipino people will never forget such kindness and compassion. On behalf of my countrymen, I thank the United States of America once more for being a true friend to our people,” he said. READ MORE...


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Obama: 'Our goal is not to counter China'


AP Photo

MANILA, APRIL 29, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Louis Bacani - After reaching a new defense pact with its treaty ally, President Barack Obama said on Monday that the United States does not intend to counter China's perceived increasing aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

In a televised joint press conference with President Benigno Aquino III in Malacañang, Obama said their goal is to simply ensure that countries are operating in a peaceful and responsible manner

"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 dispute," Obama told reporters after holding an expanded bilateral meeting on Monday afternoon.

Obama, however, assured that the US is supportive of the Philippines' move to bring the territorial dispute before an arbitration tribunal. He said this approach by the Philippine government is a "sound" one.

The American leader said the US is not taking a specific position on the territorial disputes between nations.

However, he said that as a matter of international law and international norms, Obama said coercion and intimidation is not the way to manage the overlapping territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.

Obama described the Philippines as a vital partner in maritime security and freedom of navigation.

"Today we reaffirm the importance of resolving territorial disputes in the region peacefully without intimidation or coercion," 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," Obama said.

Aquino, on the other hand, assured that the Philippines does not post danger to any country, even if it has inked a new defense pact with the US.

The Filipino leader said China should not be concerned of the new defense deal.

"At the end of the day, we are not a threat militarily to any country. We don't even have presently a single fighter aircraft in our inventory," Aquino said.

Earlier today, the two countries signed a 10-year agreement allowing the increased presence of American troops in the Philippines, which will be provided with greater access to local military bases.

The new defense deal was signed while China continues to press its sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea.

Aquino said the agreement "takes our security cooperation to a higher level of engagement ... and promotes regional peace and stability."

Obama is on his two-day visit in the Philippines, the final leg of his four-nation Asian tour.

At each stop along his tour, Obama reaffirmed the US treaty commitments to defend its Asian allies, including in their territorial disputes with China. - with AP

What Obama wrote in Malacañan Palace guestbook By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated April 28, 2014 - 3:47pm 21 298 googleplus2 0


US President Barack Obama signs the Palace guestbook, while President Benigno Aquino III looks on, at the Malacañan Palace in Manila, Philippines. RTVM screencap

MANILA, Philippines — US President Barack Obama expressed his gratitude for allowing him to visit Manila on Monday in his inscription in the guestbook of Malacañan Palace.

"I thank President Aquino and the people of the Philippines for welcoming me," Obama said in the hand-written note.

He also hoped that his state visit will reestablish bilateral ties between the Philippines and the United States.

"May America's oldest alliance in Asia always be renewed by our friendship and mutual respect," Obama wrote on the guestbook before placing his signature.

US President Obama's note in the Malacañang guest book. Official Gazette

The two countries have been treaty allies since the end of World War II.

Obama arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport aboard Air Force One at around 1:30 p.m.. He was greeted by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and his Filipino counterpart Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr.

In his two-day visit, Obama is scheduled to meet with Aquino and hold bilateral talks with the Philippine Cabinet, which will be followed by a joint press conference. A state dinner has also been arranged for him at the Palace.

On Tuesday, Obama will honor fallen soldiers at the American Cemetery and deliver remarks at Fort Bonifacio and then leave for Washington, D.C.

Philippines, US sign landmark defense deal By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated April 28, 2014 - 10:36am 25 361 googleplus0 0

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, left, shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg 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. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — Hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama, the Philippines and the United States signed on Monday morning a 10-year agreement allowing American soldiers to have greater access to military bases in the country.

The deal, formally known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassor to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg past 10 a.m.

In his speech, Goldberg said the EDCA will take the Philippines-US relations to a "new and higher level" and it will be an important part of the existing Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement frameworks.

Read: What is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement?

The agreement was inked amid the increasing tensions in the contested South China Sea, though Goldberg made no specific mention of the territorial disputes between Manila and Beijing.

"The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA serves as recognition by both sides that there is even more that we can do together to support the alliance and to promote peace and security in the region," Goldberg said in what seemed to be a reference to the maritime tensions.

The American envoy said the accord will help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in maintaining and developing additional maritime security and maritime domain awareness.

It will also help in the long-term modernization of the AFP as it aims to increase training opportunities for Filipino and American forces to enhance interoperability and humanitarian crisis response abilities.

Gazmin said the EDCA manifests a “deepened relationship” between the two countries as they face “complex” security challenges.

“Our alliance has continued to evolve as both our countries continuously search for mechanisms that would enhance our individual and collective abilities to face such security challenges,” he said.

Philippine negotiators denied that the agreement has something to do with China’s aggressive expansion in the region.

“China was never discussed in the negotiations. This agreement is about our defense alliance with the United States. We don’t aim to contain or confront anyone,” Philippine panel member Lourdes Yparaguirre said in an interview.

“I hope that our neighbors in the region would also view this agreement as a positive contribution to peace, stability, security and prosperity in the region,” she added.

China, which has been beefing up its military might, claims almost 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

Taking advantage of the Philippines’ weak military capability, Beijing has occupied areas that are well within Manila’s exclusive economic zone including the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.

China has also set up a blockade in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal to prevent supplies from reaching a grounded ship that serves as a Philippine military installation.

No re-opening of US bases

Goldberg added that the agreement will also update the security alliance of the Philippines and the US to meet the increasingly complex challenges of the 21st century, including terrorism, transnational crime or natural disasters like Typhoon Yolanda.

The official, however, stressed that the US does not intend to establish permanent military presence in the Philippines with the signing of the EDCA.

"While that captures the essence of what we will do, I want to reiterate what it will not do: It will not re-open US bases. It is an agreement to enhance our defense relationship," Goldberg said.

He said this is among the key principles of the EDCA, along with the commitment to democracy and intlernational law, the mutuality of benfits to both nations and the respect for Philippine sovereignty.

'Milestone' for Philippine-US relations

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) welcomed the signing of the EDCA, saying the deal marks a "milestone" in the shared history of the US and the Philippines as enduring treaty allies.

"The EDCA elevates to a higher plane of engagement our already robust defense alliance, a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. It provides new momentum for our partnership and opens up fresh avenues of bilateral cooperation," DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario said in a statement.

Del Rosario said enhancing the country's self-defense capabilities, maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capacities are important given the "rapidly evolving regional architecture and domestic realities."

"These are valuable components of a responsible and responsive security engagement that will benefit both our countries and peoples, and contribute to regional and international security and stability," he said. - with Alexis Romero

Obama: No US bases By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 29, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The United States will not reestablish its military bases or build new ones in the Philippines even with the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries, US President Barack Obama said yesterday.

The 10-year agreement, signed yesterday by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg shortly before the arrival of Obama, would allow American troops to build facilities within Philippine bases in a move seen to upgrade Manila’s equipment-deficient military.

In a joint briefing at Malacañang with President Aquino, Obama said he wanted “to be very clear” that the US “is not trying to reclaim old bases or build new bases.”

He called the signing of the EDCA the “beginning of an important new chapter in a relationship between our countries.”

He pointed out that at the invitation of the Philippines, “American service members will rotate to Filipino facilities” to address a range of challenges, including humanitarian crisis and natural disasters like Super Typhoon Yolanda.

“We’ll work together to build the Philippines’ defense capabilities and work with other nations to promote regional stability, such as in the South China Sea,” he said.

Through the new agreement, Obama said the Philippines and the US seek to “update” decades of alliance.

For his part, Aquino said the EDCA “takes our security cooperation to a higher level of engagement, reaffirms our countries’ commitment to mutual defense and security, and promotes regional peace and stability.”

Aquino also said China should not be concerned about the agreement, as it would largely cover training or disaster relief operations.

As an example, Aquino said the Americans made available their V-22 Osprey aircraft to help in relief operations in the aftermath of Yolanda, “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 Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda),” Aquino said.

“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,” he added.

Shared goal

Goldberg said the agreement “will contribute to increased interoperability and a greater ability to jointly respond to humanitarian crises.”

He also said the agreement “will support the shared goal of promoting the long-term modernization” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as help the AFP “maintain and develop additional maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities.”

Gazmin said EDCA manifests a “deepened relationship” between the two countries amid “complex” security challenges.

“Our alliance has continued to evolve as both our countries continuously search for mechanisms that would enhance our individual and collective abilities to face such security challenges,” Gazmin said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the US and the Philippines “have written a new chapter for our modern and mature partnership” with the signing of EDCA.

“Given the rapidly evolving regional architecture and domestic realities, our dynamic and forward-looking partnership attaches great importance to enhancing our individual and collective self-defense capabilities, strengthening maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and improving humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capacities,” he said in a statement.

On concerns that EDCA might affect bilateral relations with neighboring countries, he said the agreement merely reaffirms the desire of both the Philippines and the US to strengthen international and regional security and stability.

“We would hope that this agreement will also be viewed by our neighbors as a positive contribution towards peace and stability in the region,” a DFA statement said.

The deal, an offshoot of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), allows the US to construct facilities and store defense equipment in Philippine bases.

The building of facilities and pre-positioning of equipment to be shared by Filipino and American troops would only be in mutually agreed upon areas.

“We haven’t agreed on any locations yet. It will be covered in an annex and implementing arrangements. We have not discussed any agreed locations yet,” Philippine panel member Lourdes Yparaguirre said.

Other details such as the number of troops that can be deployed temporarily to the Philippines will also be part of the deal’s annex.

The Philippines’ prior consent is required before a particular area can be accessed by US troops. The agreement also guarantees access of the AFP base commander to areas where the US military operates.

The Philippines automatically takes over buildings and infrastructure built and left behind by the US after specific military projects.

Goldberg said the agreement is clear about the preeminence of Philippine sovereignty and the US position against establishing permanent military bases in the country.

“I should also reiterate what it will not do: reopen bases,” the US envoy said.

The Senate voted to shut down the US bases in the country in 1991 but a visiting forces agreement allowing joint drills between Philippine and US troops was ratified eight years later.

The EDCA also prohibits the entry into the Philippines of weapons of mass destruction and enjoins the two countries to commit to environmental protection, human health and safety.

Framework

In Kuala Lumpur, National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Evan Medeiros said EDCA “creates a legal and policy infrastructure” for greater military cooperation between the US and the Philippines.

“It’s sort of like the skeletal and the muscular infrastructure that over time, as we talk with the Philippines about what their needs are and what missions they want to work with us on, we will then work through what the specific nature of the training and the exercising will be,” he said.

“We’ll be working with them (Filipinos) about how best we can help them build up their capability to meet what they call credible minimum deterrence – that’s sort of their defense strategy. So we’re still working through those specific capabilities with the Philippines,” he said.

“We’re not doing this because of China. We’re doing this because we have a longstanding alliance partner,” he said in reply to a query.

The White House released a transcript of Medeiros’ Kuala Lumpur briefing.

Medeiros declined to speculate when pressed on whether he foresaw limits placed by the Philippines on the type of weaponry, including nuclear weapons or nuclear-powered submarines, that US forces could bring there.

“As I said, the scope, the duration and the location of our rotational presence in the Philippines is something that we’re going to be working out with them in the coming weeks and years as we try to determine how we want to train and exercise together,” he said.

Referring to maritime disputes in the South China Sea, Medeiros repeated the US line that it opposes the use of intimidation, coercion or aggression by any state to advance its maritime territorial claims.

“And to the extent that our work with our alliance partners and our security partners helps them become more capable and not being vulnerable to intimidation, coercion or aggression, we think that’s a good thing,” Medeiros said. “And that’s one of the reasons why we seek to modernize our alliances and our security partnerships when we come here in the region.”

In Manila, Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said the signing of the EDCA is an affirmation of the decades-old “robust and enduring partnership” between the two allies.

“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,” Coloma said.

He added that EDCA “builds capacity for more effective disaster relief and rehabilitation response.”

“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,” Coloma stressed. With Alexis Romero, Delon Porcalla, Pia Lee-Brago, Perseus Echeminada, Jaime Laude, Jose Katigbak

Obama on Yolanda reconstruction: We stand with you By Aurea Calica and Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 29, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The US is standing by the Philippines in its efforts to recover and rebuild from the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

US President Barack Obama gave this assurance during a joint press conference with President Aquino after their expanded bilateral meeting in Malacañang yesterday, noting that the partnership between the two countries reflects the important Filipino concept of bayanihan or standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

“The idea that we have to work together to accomplish things that we couldn’t achieve on our own – that’s what we saw last year when Typhoon Yolanda devastated so many communities,” he said.

“Our Armed Forces and civilians from both our countries worked as one to rescue victims and to deliver life-saving aid – that’s what friends do for each other. And Mr. President, I want to say to you and the people of the Philippines, the United States will continue to stand with you as you recover and rebuild. Our commitment to the Philippines will not waver,” he added.

He said the US is committed to work together with the Philippines to address the devastating effects of climate change and to make its communities less vulnerable to extreme storms like Yolanda.

Aquino, for his part, thanked the US for the immediate outpouring of assistance in the aftermath of Yolanda and its clear expression of solidarity with the typhoon’s survivors.

“Mr. President, in your State of the Union Address early this year, you spoke of how American volunteers and troops were greeted with gratitude in the affected areas. Today, I reiterate formally: the Filipino people will never forget such kindness and compassion. On behalf of my countrymen, I thank the United States of America once more for being a true friend to our people,” he said.

Aquino said Yolanda showed the entire world how vulnerable the Philippines, as well as other developing countries, was to natural disasters. As such, humanitarian assistance and disaster response was an essential component of cooperation.

He said he was counting on the US and the international community to help the Philippines build back better the communities affected by Yolanda.

Aquino also cited their discussion on how partnership could be enhanced through building climate-resilient communities.

“These kinds of strong communities are important, not only in withstanding disasters, but also in fostering inclusive growth across the entire country. President Obama and I recognize the importance of strong economic engagement for the continued growth of both the Philippines and the United States,” Aquino said.

USAID

Aquino also expressed appreciation for US support to the Philippines’ programs under the Partnership for Growth framework, which enhanced the policy environment for economic growth through $145 million in total planned contribution from the US Agency for International Development.

The support is coursed through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which supports the implementation of projects on road infrastructure, poverty reduction and good governance with a $434 million grant from 2011 to 2016, he said.

Aquino also welcomed the substantive agreement between the two countries on the terms and concessions for the US to support the Philippines’ request for the extension of special treatment for rice imports until 2017.

“We also discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is a high standard trade arrangement that will shape the global and regional economic architecture in the 21st century. The Philippines is working to ascertain how participation in TPP can be realized,” he said.

Peace agreement

He also expressed gratitude for US support for the peace negotiations between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Our meeting today was comprehensive, historic, and significant – embodying our shared values and aspirations. It accorded President Obama and myself the opportunity to build on the relations between our countries, and discuss our strategic vision for the future of the Philippines-United States relationship – a relationship that is modern, mature, and forward-looking, and one that allows us to surpass challenges, towards the benefit of our peoples, the entire region, and the world,” Aquino said.

Meanwhile, Obama likewise expressed support for Aquino’s efforts to strengthen governance and fight corruption.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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