Manila– ThePhilippinesis seeking a military pact with its Asean neighbours andAustraliathat will allow for joint counter-terrorism training of military personnel, streamline the fight against transnational crime and boost disaster management.
Defence Secretary Avelino Cruz saidManilaexpects to finish negotiations for a status of forces agreement (SOFA) withMalaysiawithin the year and then start talks withSingaporeon a similar pact. The proposed pact, patterned after the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed with theUnited Statesin February 1998, will regulate the temporary visits for military exercises ofMalaysiadefence and military personnel in thePhilippines.
“I am hopeful that we will get an agreement withMalaysiathis year. This will serve as a template for similar agreements with other Asean countries and withAustralia,” he told The Straits Times.
“Within an SOFA, we can have joint exercises either inMalaysiaor in the southernPhilippinesand further strengthen joint border patrols.”
Mr Cruz said he would also propose the signing of a similar agreement withAustraliaduring his visit there this month.
“The threat of terrorism is real and serious” and cooperation from allied countries will definitely boostManila’s capability to combat this, Mr Cruz added.
* Manila seeks military pact with Asean states (The Straits Times, April 2)