Palace: Gov’t ensures PHL interest is protected in talks on increased presence of US troops

MANILA, March 6 (PNA) — While talks on increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines are ongoing, Malacanang said Thursday the government continues to ensure that the country’s interest is protected.

It can be recalled that Philippine defense officials considered shoring up US presence in the country to achieve a minimum credible defense.

This applies particularly with the aggressive posturing of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The two countries have completed five rounds of negotiations since August.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a Palace briefing, raised the topic reacting to the Philippines having an issue over the US troops’ jurisdiction.

Coloma explained that negotiations between both countries will build upon existing agreements including the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement.

“Both countries are aware of the challenges in implementation,” Coloma said. “Hence, both panels will consider how to frame the proposed agreement in such a way that those challenges will be addressed adequately.”

The PCOO chief, however, noted that the Philippines should learn from experience and not allow a one-sided agreement that would favor the US.

He further said that the good thing is that negotiators are relying on the baselines (existing agreements) and they are not starting from scratch. (PNA)