Obama: US commitment to defend Philippines ironclad

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MANILA -- In an apparent turn around, United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday made the US government's commitment to defend the Philippines against any external armed attacks.

This was contrary to his statement on Monday during a joint press conference with President Benigno Aquino III in Malacanang when he refused to give any clear commitment to defend the Philippines in the event that the territorial dispute with China ends up in an armed conflict.

"Our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad and the United States will keep that commitment, because allies never stand alone," Obama said before 300 Filipino and American soldiers at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

The US President noted that for more than 60 years, a mutual defense treaty has bound the US and the Philippines with a common pledge, saying "common determination to defend themselves against external armed attacks, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone."

Obama made the statement a day after the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which will allow US forces greater access to Philippine military facilities.

"Yesterday, President (Benigno) Aquino and I agreed to begin a new chapter in our alliance. And under our new agreement, American forces can begin rotating through Filipino airfields and ports," he said.

He added that the agreement will also allow US and Filipino forces to train and exercise together, in an effort to strengthen the armed forces.

Obama in Manila
MANILA. President Barack Obama waves as he arrives to speak at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig city, outside of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday. This is the last leg of president Obama's four-nation tour through the Asia-Pacific region. (AP)

He said such training would improve the ability of the armed forces to respond even faster to disasters like Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Obama took the opportunity to honor several Filipino and American troops who responded during the aftermath of the super typhoon in Tacloban.

Those he cited were Captain Roy Trinidad of the Philippine Navy SEAL; Colonel Mike Wylie of the United States Marines; and US Air Force Major George Apalisok, who is a Filipino-American.

As a show of good relationship, Filipino and American troops stood alternately behind Obama as he made his speech.

Obama again stressed that disputes between China and other Asian countries should be resolved peacefully and not by threat and coercion.

"We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace, and to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected. We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded," he said.

"We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force. That's what our nations stand for. That's the future we're working for. And that's why your service is so important," he added.

Obama left the country on Tuesday, ending his four-nation Asian tour, which also took him to Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. (SDR/Sunnex)

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