The United States is negotiating an agreement to allow it to position military equipment and rotating personnel in the Philippines while avoiding the controversial issue of re-establishing US bases in the country, officials from both countries say.
The negotiations for increased military access by the US take place against the backdrop of simmering tensions between the Philippines and China over areas in the South China Sea claimed by both countries.
The Philippines, which has a small navy and air force, is relying on support from the United States to modernise its military and upgrade its capabilities.
Part of this military relationship has involved regular short-term visits by US military forces for joint training, humanitarian work and disaster response.
The arrangement under negotiation now would allow US forces to visit for longer periods of time and be stationed on Philippine military bases. It would also allow US military equipment to be based in the Philippines, officials said.
”An access agreement would increase opportunities for joint military training and exercises and allow the pre-positioning of equipment and supplies enabling us to respond quickly to disasters,” said Elizabeth Mesa, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Manila.
”The United States is not seeking to create or reopen any military bases in the Philippines,” she added.
The United States maintained large military bases in the Philippines for nearly a century as it countered threats from Japan before World War II and concerns about the spread of Communism during the Cold War.
In 1992, the last US base in the country was closed after divisive street protests and a decision by the country’s Senate to discontinue the US military presence in the country. The presence of US military forces in the Philippines remains controversial.
Raul Hernandez, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that no new US bases were planned and said that any new agreement would be in line with the Philippine constitution.
He said the discussions with the United States involve the use of ”rotational” forces.
”We continue to talk and refine with the United States the modalities and parameters for increased rotational presence of United States forces in the Philippines,” he said. NEW YORK TIMES