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Philippines' Aquino says more US troops welcome

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Tuesday more US troops would be welcome to rotate through the Southeast Asian nation, but ruled out permanent bases.

Aquino told AFP in an interview that talks were under way for the longtime allies to hold more military training exercises in the Philippines, as well as increase the number of times that US navy ships visited.

"We are talking with them. We will have more of the same, is what I am trying to say," Aquino said, referring to a longstanding partnership that sees regular joint exercises and US port calls in the Philippines.

"Their ships can come and call on us, can be replenished, but our constitution will not allow any permanent berthing here in any form.

"There might be increases in terms of personnel, but it will have to be very clear on when they come in and go out. They can not be here permanently."

The negotiations come as the United States is expanding its military presence in the Asia Pacific as a counterweight to rising China, having brokered a deal with Australia to place more troops there.

It is also expecting to station several combat ships in Singapore and step up deployments in Thailand, the chief of US naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, wrote in December.

Aquino said the Philippines was at the same time looking to the United States for help in building up its defence capabilities, amid a maritime territorial dispute with China and a host of other security issues.

The Philippines had asked the United States for F-16 fighter jets, as well as patrol vessels, transport aircraft and radar systems.

"They are still studying the request for the excess F16s. We are hoping they will look at it favourably," he said. 

Agence France Presse | Interaksyon.Com | March 20, 2012 | Article Link

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