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Continued: US signs 10-year deal with Manila that will give it a larger military presence in Philippines

  • Article by: JIM GOMEZ , Associated Press
  • Last update: April 28, 2014 - 1:43 AM

The presence of foreign troops is a sensitive issue in the Philippines, a former American colony.

The Philippine Senate voted in 1991 to close down U.S. bases at Subic and Clark, northwest of Manila. However, it ratified a pact with the United States allowing temporary visits by American forces in 1999, four years after China seized a reef the Philippines contests.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, hundreds of U.S. forces descended in the southern Philippines under that accord to hold counterterrorism exercises with Filipino troops fighting Muslim militants.

This time, the focus of the Philippines and its underfunded military has increasingly turned to external threats as territorial spats with China in the potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea heated up in recent years.

Chinese paramilitary ships took effective control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground off the northwestern Philippines, in 2012. Last year, Chinese coast guard ships surrounded another contested offshore South China Sea territory, the Second Thomas Shoal, where they have been trying to block food supplies and rotation of Filipino marines aboard a grounded Philippine navy ship in the remote coral outcrops.

China has ignored Philippine diplomatic protests and Manila's move last year to challenge Beijing's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea before an international arbitration tribunal. It has warned the U.S. to stay out of the Asian dispute.

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  • April 28, 2014: Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, left, and U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg sign the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement at Camp Aguinaldo, Philippine military headquarters in suburban Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines.

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