Locklear Visit Reaffirms U.S.-Philippine Alliance
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
HONOLULU, Jul. 18, 2012 With a new agreement that promotes increased information sharing and talks under way about more military-to-military engagements and potential U.S. troop rotations in the Philippines, the senior U.S. military officer in the Pacific returned from a visit there confident the historic alliance is advancing.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III said discussions during his first visit to Manila as commander of U.S. Pacific Command all point to a positive future for the alliance.
The admiral met with President Benigno S. Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, Gen. Jessie Dellosa and their senior staffs about a broad range of maritime and regional security issues, he told American Forces Press Service during the return flight to his headquarters in Hawaii.
The central theme, he said, was, “how do we strengthen our enduring alliance and how do we ensure that it is durable and satisfactory for the security challenges of the region?”
The United States wants to continue helping the Philippine military establish a “minimum credible defense” capability -- one Locklear said “allows them to have confidence in their own security.”
Exactly what capabilities that entails will be for the Filipinos themselves to define, he said. But as part of that, the Philippine government already recognizes that it needs to modernize its military to deal with current as well as future challenges.
“They have been focused on internal security issues for a number of decades,” Locklear said. Now recognizing their place in a globalized world where opportunities as well as challenges are increasingly transnational, Philippine military and political leaders are now expanding that aperture, he said.
That includes a new emphasis on protecting the global commons and increasing maritime security to protect resources within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zones, Locklear said.
A new joint use agreement between the United States and the Philippines, signed just before Locklear’s visit, promotes better communication and information sharing to support that effort, he said.
The United States has also committed to Pacom support in improving the Philippines’s C4I -- command, control, communications, computers and intelligence -- architecture, Locklear said.
Meanwhile, while reporting that Philippine government and military leaders are “very receptive” to the general concept of rotational U.S. forces, Locklear said this week’s talks didn’t get into specifics.
“This is not about building U.S. installations in the Philippines,” he emphasized, dismissing any interest in reestablishing a permanent U.S. presence at Subic Bay, the former Clarke Air Base or anywhere else in the country.
“Those days will not return,” Locklear said. “We are looking for the ability to have rotational forces that can operate and interoperate seamlessly with allies in the Philippine military to accomplish our security objectives.”
This, he said, includes a better ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters that range from hurricanes to typhoons, floods, earthquakes and volcanoes.
“Having an ability to work together, to bring our forces together in a way that we can support the needs of the community at large, I think is an important way to forward our relationship,” the admiral said.
Noting that the Philippines include 7,000 islands, Locklear said he sees “a number of opportunities where we could operate together, that would make sense and would benefit both of our interests, mutually.”
Locklear recognized the close cultural as well as military ties the United States and the Philippines have shared for generations.
Immediately after arriving, he visited the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, the final resting place for more than 1,550 U.S. and Philippine forces that died in the Philippines during World War II as the two countries were forging their alliance.
“This is a reaffirmation that the Mutual Defense Treaty is still in place and still strong,” Locklear said of his visit. “And it is an opportunity for us to find places and missions where we can partner and exercise together in a way that will increase our overall security cooperation and increase security in this critical part of the Asia-Pacific.”