What the heck is IRP? PHL says no permanent military presence; U.S. wants 20 years

Members of the Philippine negotiating panel -- Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, and Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta -- with U.S. chief negotiator Ambassador Eric John and panel member Brig. Gen. Joaquin Malavet of the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, at the Pentagon before the start of the negotiations. Embassy Photo

Members of the Philippine negotiating panel — Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, and Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta — with U.S. chief negotiator Ambassador Eric John and panel member Brig. Gen. Joaquin Malavet of the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, at the Pentagon before the start of the negotiations. Embassy Photo

The Philippines and the U.S. began on August 14 negotiations on the Increased Rotational Presence (IRP) Framework Agreement.

As defined by the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C., IRP is “an arrangement that will help the Philippines achieve a minimum credible defense amid territorial threats and bolster plans to modernize the armed forces.”

In their second round of negotiations at the U.S. Department of Defense in the Pentagon, both countries have agreed that joint exercises and activities under the IRP framework agreement will require the approval of the Philippines, according to Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino of the Philippine Department of National Defense.

The Philippine panel is composed of Batino, Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

“Both the Philippines and the U.S. panels share the understanding that the American troops will not establish a permanent military presence in our country. That was clear during the discussion,” Batino said. “From the beginning of the talks, we communicated to our counterparts that they could not establish a permanent presence in the Philippines in accordance with our Constitution.”

The minutes released by the panels after a press conference at the Philippine Embassy said that all the access to and use of military facilities and areas by the U.S. will be at the invitation of the Philippine government.

“Where and what can be prepositioned will be subject to prior approval by the Philippine government and based on mutuality of interest. Any approval will contain specific areas and time for the temporary activity,” explained Sorreta, who is the panel spokesperson.

During the talks, he said, the negotiators were able to establish “specific understandings” on the following:

- Facilities used for prepositioning remain the property of the Philippines

- The Philippines maintains the primary responsibility and authority in matters of security

- Any prepositioning or activities will not violate Philippine environmental laws

- Any construction will have to be removed by the U.S. once the approved activity is completed

- Stronger language on non-prepositioning of prohibited weapons.

Sorreta said the Philippines and the U.S. were able to flesh out some details on humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

A number of provisions in the proposed framework agreement, however, are subject to further discussion, including the issue of duration, he said.

“For the Americans, they typically have agreements like these that have a duration of 20 years. Right now, the Philippine delegation is looking at a much shorter duration,” Sorreta said.

The next round of follow-up talks will be held in the second week of September in the U.S.
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