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Hagel praises ‘unbreakable’ US-Philippine alliance

Email   Print   Share By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service
September 5, 2013 | Across DoD
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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visits the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Philippines, Friday. The 152-acre cemetery is the resting place of 17,201 U.S. service members killed in World War II, most of whom died during operations in New Guinea and the Philippines.
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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, second from left, meets with Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, Friday. (Photos by Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler, DoD)
MANILA, Philippines - On the last stop of what he called a “very productive” trip to four countries in Southeast Asia, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met Friday with Philippine government and defense leaders and later paid his respects to U.S. troops laid to rest at the Manila American Cemetery.

The secretary left Washington, D.C., Aug. 22 and visited his counterparts in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei before arriving today in Manila.

In Brunei on Aug. 28 he attended a meeting of defense ministers from 10 countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. The 10 member states are Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

He attended the second-ever meeting of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus, Aug. 29, a group made up of the 10 ASEAN defense ministers and eight dialogue partners: defense ministers from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia.

Friday in Manila, after meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III at the Malacanang Palace, Hagel and National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin held a press conference there.

“In my meeting with President Aquino I noted that the deep and unbreakable alliance between the United States and the Philippines is an anchor for peace and stability and prosperity in this region,” Hagel said.

“Our close ties to the Philippines have been forged through a history of shared sacrifice and common purpose,” he added, “and continuing to strengthen the close partnership between our nations is an important part of America’s long-term strategy of rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific.”

An important topic of discussion among the three men and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario involved ongoing negotiations for a Framework Agreement that would allow U.S. forces to operate on Philippine military bases and in Philippine territory and waters to help build Philippine armed forces capacity in maritime security and maritime domain awareness.

The last time the United States and the Philippines signed a mutual defense treaty was in 1951, and the new Framework Agreement would update the agreement for routine troop rotations and related activities, according to a senior defense official traveling with the secretary.

“The visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the Philippines coincides with an important date for Philippines-U.S. defense relations,” Gazmin said at the press conference. “For it was on 30 Aug. 1951 that the mutual defense treaty was signed. Today is the 62nd anniversary.”

“In the spirit of that (early) treaty and its continuing relevance today, President Aquino and I reaffirmed the progress being made in the ongoing discussions for our Framework Agreement,” Hagel said.

Hagel said the Framework Agreement will strengthen cooperation between the two militaries and help them work together more effectively. He noted that the negotiating teams are working hard to finish the agreement.

“The United States does not seek permanent bases in the Philippines,” Hagel said. “That would represent a return to an outdated Cold War mentality. Instead, we are using a new model of military-to-military cooperation befitting two great allies and friends.”

Increasing the United States’ rotational presence in the Philippines as it has done recently in Singapore and Australia will benefit the U.S. and Philippine militaries, Hagel said, by increasing their ability to train and operate together and support President Aquino’s defense modernization agenda.

The United States has a great deal of experience in building a modern military, the secretary said.

“And we would like to share what we’ve learned with our Philippine allies,” Hagel added.
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