MANILA (Mabuhay) – The new US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Monday said the Philippines and the United States are now working out the finer points of the framework agreement on the increased rotational presence (IRP) of US troops in the country.
The new US envoy said the agreement will not involve establishing new US bases in the Philippines.
“We’ve had several rounds of negotiations. We’re down to brass tacks, sort of as we say, which means there are still some issues we need to resolve. We’re sensitive to some of the issues and some of the history here,” he said.
Goldberg said the IRP aims to boost bilateral cooperation in disaster relief and help the Philippines build a minimum defense capability, particularly in tense areas such as the West Philippine Sea.
He declined to speculate whether China would eventually impose an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) there similar to the one it recently announced in Northeast Asia.
He highlighted the need to ensure that there are no miscalculations that could further heighten tensions.
“We all know that in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and this part of South China Sea – there’s tension and there is possibility for miscalculation and those are never good things. And so the idea of more consultation, reducing tensions and making sure there are no miscalculations – we don’t recognize the ADIZ but we need to take steps to lower tensions and make sure that miscalculations and accidents don’t happen,” he said.
Goldberg also said the United States is ready to continue helping with ongoing rehabilitation and recovery efforts in areas hit by super typhoon Yolanda.
He said he is not too concerned about the issue of accountability in the Philippine government’s use of US financial assistance for the disaster.
“I am not too concerned. We work very well with the Philippine government on how our money is spent, how we deliver aid, so I don’t think that’s a concern from our part. But we need obviously to make an accounting to the American Congress and people on how we’re spending money. But we’re working well with the Philippine government. I think that the aid is accounted for. All that we’re doing is known, we publicize it everyday,” he said. (MNS)