US, Philippines agree to strengthen military ties

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The United States and the Philippines have agreed for a stronger military cooperation following the visit of four American senators in the country on Tuesday.

President Benigno S. Aquino III met with Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Sheldon Whitehouse and Kelly Ayotte during a courtesy call in Malacanang. McCain, Lieberman and Ayotte are all members of the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The senators said that they are increasing their presence in the Asia-Pacific region. As you know, they already have established bases in Australia and Singapore. There will be increased military exercises in Asia -Pacific region and that would also include the Philippines,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing on Wednesday quoting Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin who also met with the US senators.

Lacierda clarified, however, that the US is not establishing any bases in the Philippines.

Lacierda said the Philippines also asked for a second Hamilton class cutter, a request that the US senators vowed to support. The first Hamilton class cutter arrived in the Philippines last August. It is now commissioned by the Philippine Navy to protect the country’s waters.

During their meeting, the President briefed the visiting US senators on the ongoing impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, Lacierda said.

“Sen. John McCain lauded the President for his high approval ratings and Senator Lieberman told the President he was impressed with the way the President handles efforts on good governance,” he added.

The Philippines welcomed the wider military cooperation between the two countries, and the Philippines is ready to engage itself in more military exercises with the US, Lacierda said.

“We profit from the experiences of joint military exercises. It enhances our experience, it improves our capabilities. We learn from the Americans,” Lacierda said.

McCain and the three other US senators paid a courtesy call on President Aquino III in Malacanang Tuesday night. Some of the Filipino officials who were also present include Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

McCain, who represents Arizona, currently serves on the following Senate Committees during the 112th Congress: Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee; Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Committee on Indian Affairs.

McCain lost his campaign against Barack Obama in the 2008 US presidential election.

Lieberman, an independent senator from Connecticut, is best known for his Democratic vice presidential run in 2000. He is a strong advocate for education reform, environment, healthcare and social security.

Last week, the President also met several members of the US Congress who arrived in the country. The visiting US congressmen commended the reform agenda of the Aquino government. (as/1:29pm)