Marines familiarize members of the Philippine Air Force with U.S. weapons during Exercise Balikatan 2011. (Army)
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The Philippine government would allow U.S. forces to use its military bases as part of a new security deal expected to expand rotational deployments to the region.
As first reported by Reuters, the two countries hope to finalize the agreement before President Obama’s scheduled visit to the Philippines next month.
“The proposed agreement will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) facilities with elements of the U.S. military,” Reuters quoted Philippine defense undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino as saying.
A Defense Department spokesman said on Monday that the he could not confirm the report because negotiations between the two countries are ongoing.
Currently, the two countries conduct annual joint military exercises and U.S. special operations forces work with their Filipino counterparts to combat Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic militant group linked to al-Qaida.
In 1992, the U.S. military left its military bases in the Philippines, including Clark air base and Subic Bay naval base. Since then, China has become increasingly aggressive in staking its claim to the South China Sea, including waters that the Philippine government considers within its territory. On March 9, for instance, Chinese coast guard vessels turned away two Philippine cargo ships that were trying to resupply Philippine marines on the Ayungin Shoal.
Meanwhile, relations between the U.S. and Philippines warmed after the U.S. military sent troops, ships and planes to help with relief efforts after Super Typhoon Haiyan raged through the city of Tacloban in November. A month later, protracted negotiations between the U.S. and Philippine governments over Clark Veterans Cemetery ended with an agreement for The American Battle Monuments Commission to assume responsibility for maintaining the cemetery, which was badly damaged in a 1991 volcanic eruption.