MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine officials say Manila and Washington have hurdled a major obstacle in negotiations on an accord that will allow increased U.S. military presence in the country.
Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino says American negotiators have agreed that Philippine authorities can have access to U.S. facilities set up inside local military bases to show Filipino control over these areas, a sensitive issue concerning sovereignty in this former American colony.
Batino, the head of the Philippine negotiating panel, said Friday that "access has always been a primordial concern" for the government.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has said that disagreements over the issue were delaying the negotiations.
The Philippines is seeking stronger defense cooperation with the U.S. as its territorial dispute with China over areas in the South China Sea intensifies.