PH-US talks this week on US troops could be last round
MANILA - The Philippines and United States are set to hold the eighth round of negotiations Thursday for the planned increase in rotational presence of American troops in the country.
An official from the Department of National Defense believes this may be the last round of talks before US President Barack Obama visits later this month.
Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, the Philippine panel chairman, said he looks forward to more progress from what has been achieved in the last round of talks.
The two-day meeting will be held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
The seventh round was also held there, from March 24 to March 26.
The framework agreement is seen to bolster the country’s territorial defense amid the disputes with China. It is also seen to help the country, which is in the midst of modernizing its military assets.
If signed, the US forces may put up facilities inside Philippine military camps.
Batino also said the agreement is timely in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda and the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
"Calamities such as typhoon Yolanda as well as the ongoing search for the Malaysian Airlines plane underscore that friendly armed forces are in a unique and crucial position to provide timely responses in these events," said Batino.
"Time is of the essence in these situations and, as often the first responders, friendly armed forces can provide much-needed human, technical and equipment assistance and support for the success of those efforts," he said.
Nonetheless, Batino insisted the negotiations are not bound by a timeline.
What is paramount is an agreement "that will serve national interest and to make sure that this agreement will be compliant with Philippine Constitution and laws,” he said.
A member of the Philippine panel, ambassador to Austria Lourdes Yparraguirre also earlier said: "If the negotiations are successfully concluded, that happens before the arrival of President Obama, then we will be happy of course.”