PNoy on new accord with US: The devil is in the details

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2014 12:38 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2014 12:14 AM

PH-US talks on increased presence of US troops still ongoing

MANILA - Negotiations between the Philippines and the United States for an increased rotational presence of US troops are still ongoing, two months before the scheduled visit of Presidrent Barack Obama to the country.

President Aquino told reporters that details are still being ironed out to meet the needs of both sides.

"May mga nuances, 'yung kailangan ng batas natin, kailangan ng batas nila. 'Yung principles that we want to uphold, klaro. 'Yung details--sabi nga nila the devil is in the details--'yung details ang medyo kailangan pang plantsahin," Aquino said, adding that both sides have wanted to fast-track the talks from the start while meeting their respective needs.

US and Philippine officials recently ended the 5th round of talks on a framework agreement on increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines

The 5th round was “successfully concluded” last Jan. 31 in Washington.

In a press statement last week, Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman Peter Paul Galvez Galvez said the two panels arrived at “common understanding on key issues such as security and related topics while clarifying their respective views on other matters.”

The two sides reaffirmed their commitment in enhancing cooperation in the field of in the security and related fields, particularly in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, he said.

Both sides agreed the proposed agreement should be guided by the Mutual Defense Treaty, Visiting Forces Agreement “and other international legal instruments and consistent with their respective Constitutions and laws.”

Talks on the framework started August last year.

Philippine officials have said the increased presence of US forces will bolster the country’s territorial defense capability.

"The Philippine Negotiating Panel will continue to articulate and promote our national values and interests and will remain guided by the principles of full respect for Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops and no US basing in the Philippines, mutuality of benefits and respect for the Philippine Constitution, including the prohibition against nuclear weapons," said Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino.

The next round of talks is scheduled next month.