U.S. to sign military deal with Philippines but won't reopen base
MANILA — With President Obama scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on Monday, the administration announced on Sunday that the United States will sign a defense agreement with the island nation that will give American troops, ships and aircraft more access to the Philippines than they've had since the last U.S. military base closed here in 1992.
The accord, which will be signed by U.S. Ambassador Phil Goldberg before Obama's plane lands, “is the most significant defense agreement that we have concluded with the Philippines in decades,” said Evan Medeiros, the administration's senior director for Asian affairs.
It had been unclear whether U.S. and Philippines negotiators, who've been working on the accord for eight months, would agree before Obama's visit, the first by an American president since 2003. Signing it will symbolize American support for the Philippines as it confronts China over competing claims to vast stretches of the South China Sea. It will give Obama something solid to crow about as he returns to Washington on Tuesday night.
In an interview with a Philippines media outlet, ABS-CBN News, Obama said the agreement helps reaffirm the “incredible ties” between the American and the Filipino people. But he was careful to note it will not mean new U.S. bases in the Philippines, which would rile up nationalists and anti-war demonstrators, some of whom have protested Obama's visit.