Philippines defence pact boosts US influence
US President Barack Obama has arrived in the Philippines in a visit widely seen as of a part of Washington’s “pivot to Asia strategy.”
Obama landed just hours after Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed a new military agreement allowing more troops in the country. The Philippine government said the pact is an affirmation “of the robust and enduring strategic partnership between” the two allies.
Talking to reporters in Manila, Goldberg, said that the new agreement will not allow the reopening of US bases in the Philippines, something that has been opposed by nationalist forces and is prohibited by the 1987 Constitution.
But the agreement essentially allows US access to Philippine military bases across the country. Senator Miriam DefensorSantiago, chairman of the Philippines Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Al Jazeera that the agreement has “marginal advantages” for the country, and is more beneficial to the US.
With the signing of the agreement, Santiago said the US “could claim that it has ‘contained’ China, because the Asian countries involved, including the Philippines, are now bound by their respective agreements with America”.
“It would make the Philippines sounds as if we are a satellite ally of America,” she said. Anti-China sentiments have been on the rise in the Philippines, which is engaged with Beijing over disputed atolls in the potentially oil- and gasrich South China Sea, with both countries claiming Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal as their own.
The Philippines has accused Beijing of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the sea, and has called on the US for greater military as well as diplomatic support.
Obama with Philippines President Beningo Aquino [AP].