PHL panel for EDC says access to proposed US facilities in PHL always a ‘primordial concern’

MANILA, March 14 (PNA) — The Philippine panel for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDC) on Friday stressed that having access to the proposed US facilities, which will be set-up in the country once the talks are completed, is always a “primordial concern”.

“The issue of access by Philippine authorities has always been a primordial concern for the panel and right from the beginning we have voiced this out to the US panel that this would be an important requirement for the PHL panel with respect to the negotiations of this agreement,” said Defense undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, head of the Philippine panel.

Batino issued this statement during a briefing Friday at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Commissioned Officers Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

He said this view was also shared by panel member Ambassador Eduardo Malaya who stated that areas, which US facilities may be constructed, are within existing Philippine military bases.

“If I may add, the areas to be shared are areas within existing Philippine military bases or facilities so these areas are within those bases so in essence access is assured,” Malaya said.

It could be said that access is a given, what is being discussed is the sharing of responsibilities with respect to security and I think at this time both panels have reached agreement on languaging, and we would be able to hammer down the specifics as to who would be securing what area but as a concept, access is assured this being within Philippine military bases and that the right of the base commander to have access to specific area will be shared with them, as it has already been agreed in principle by both panels,” he stressed.

According to Batino, all structures and activities by US forces, once the EDC is okayed, will be limited or confined to existing AFP facilities.

After the reconstitution of the Philippine negotiating panel and before the fifth round of talks last Jan. 30-31, the Philippine side presented a full draft text which more comprehensively articulated the Philippines’ position which are consistent with the Philippine Constitution and relevant laws as well as informed by the country’s historical experiences.

At the instance of the Philippine panel, the United States agreed to the inclusion of provisions on environment and safety, and opportunities for potential Philippine suppliers of goods, products and services.

Batino emphasized that, as in the preceding five rounds, the Philippine negotiating panel was 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.”

The other members of the Philippine negotiating panel are Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and DND assistant secretary for strategic assessments Raymund Jose Quilop. (PNA)