US, Philippines sign 10-year defense deal

US, Philippines sign 10-year defense deal

US, Philippines sign 10-year defense deal

US President Barack Obama smiles next to President Benigno Aquino while signing the official guest book at the Malacanang Palace in Manila. REUTERS Photo

The U.S. military will get greater access to bases across the Philippines under a 10-year agreement signed April 28 in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s visit in a deal seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region.

U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin signed the agreement at the main military camp in the capital, Manila, ahead of Obama’s stop and portrayed it is as a central part of his weeklong Asia swing. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will give American forces temporary access to selected military camps and allow them to preposition fighter jets and ships. The deal was signed hours before Obama arrived in Manila on the last leg of a four-country Asian tour, following stops in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. President Barack Obama said the U.S. goal in Asia was not to contain or counter China, hours after the U.S. signed the agreement.

Obama however backed Manila’s effort to get its territorial disputes with China adjudicated by international arbitration. “Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China,” Obama said at a press conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Hundreds of American military personnel have been deployed in the southern Philippines since 2002 to
provide counterterrorism training and serve as advisers to Filipino soldiers, who have battled Muslim militants for decades.