Philippines President Benigno Aquino is in the US to discuss military and economic cooperation with the Obama administration. He is scheduled to meet President Obama this Friday at the White House.
The visit follows a recent announcement by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that the Obama administration will be employing a new Asia strategy, with plans to shift 60% of its warships to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. The Philippines, having been a close military ally of the US for decades, agreed previously to allow a greater number of US troops rotate in the archipelago. The US has also agreed to help upgrade the Philippine military, pledging to increase its annual foreign military sales program to the Philippines to $30 million this year.
President Aquino’s meeting with top US military officer General Martin Dempsey early this week in Manila concluded on a successful note, with the US pledging to help the Philippines step up its maritime security in the face of rising China. Recent months have seen mounting tension between Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal, an island located in the South China Sea that has been frequently disputed over by the two countries.
According to Jose Cuisia, the Philippines ambassador in Washington, the meeting between President Aquino and President Obama “will lay the groundwork for the future of the strategic partnership between the Philippines and the United States”. Discussions will involve “bilateral economic and defense cooperation, the shift in the focus of the United States towards the Asia-Pacific and ways to revitalize [US’s] alliance”.
China voiced uneasiness about the US’s decision to move its pivot to Asia, but has yet to comment on President Aquino’s trip to the US and its implications on Philippines-China relations.
Report: Philippines president visits US as allies eye China [Reuters, 7 June 2012]
Report: US pledges Philippines support on Aquino visit [AFP, 8 June 2012]
Report: More Philippine disputes with China loom, says Aquino [Wall Street Journal, 7 June 2012]