Channel NewsAsia

Defence cooperation to top agenda in Obama’s Philippine visit

Defence cooperation, including China's incursions into Philippine territory, will be top of the agenda when US President Barack Obama meets with President Benigno Aquino.

MANILA: Defence cooperation, including China's incursions into Philippine territory, will be top of the agenda when US President Barack Obama meets with President Benigno Aquino.

All eyes are on the potential signing of a defence pact, which would allow for greater military cooperation between the two nations.

Amid the ongoing territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, Manila will be seeking a reassurance of Washington's support when Obama arrives in the Philippines for the last leg of his Asian tour.

As the only defence treaty ally of the Philippines -- the government said it is important to have a guarantee from the United States.

''We would like to get greater clarity on the strategic perspectives, especially in light of recent developments in the South China Sea. It is known that we have concerns regarding our entitlements under the international law of the sea.

"The US has been upfront in expressing its views regarding the need to maintain stability in the region, which is essential to the Philippines with regards to its defence coordinations,” said Herminio Coloma Jr, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

Expectations are high that the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement between the two countries will be signed during the visit, despite a lack of released details.

The new deal would allow for the increased presence of American troops in the country, increased financial assistance and greater access to the Philippines' military bases.

Analysts said it is an important strategy for the Philippines to counter Beijing's posturing.

''We can use this agreement to leverage with China in the context of our maritime dispute with China.

"It is very important to the Philippines because the Philippine government is expecting that after the signing, it will be expecting more access… to the military assets of the US,” said Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

The Philippine government further believes the enhanced defence agreement with the US will aid its armed forces in its modernisation program, and help improve its maritime and defence capabilities.

But even before the deal is signed, a number of lawmakers have already threatened to file a case at the Supreme Court against the defence pact.

They worry it would affect Philippine sovereignty, and do little to curb China's influence. 

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna