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Manila, Washington to forge military-to-military pact.

MANILA, July 24 Kyodo

Washington and Manila are now finalizing a military-to-military agreement that will facilitate the acquisition of logistic supplies, support and services for U.S. troops in the Philippines during joint war games, a draft document said Wednesday.

''This agreement is entered into for the purpose of establishing basic terms, conditions, and procedures to facilitate the reciprocal provisions of logistic support, supplies and services,'' the pact dubbed as Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) said.

The agreement is hoped to be signed by October between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Philippine Department of National Defense.

The agreement is expected to eliminate paperwork and procedures that go with the standard process in buying and selling U.S. supplies, support and services.

Under the agreement, the U.S. can transfer all classes of supplies in the U.S. inventory, except major items, specified munitions and items prohibited by law, such as guided missiles, nuclear ammunition, naval mines, torpedoes, chemical ammunition and other advanced weapon systems.

''Each party shall exert its best efforts, consistent with national priorities, to satisfy requests from the other party under this agreement for logistical support, supplies and services,'' the draft document says.

''This agreement applies to the reciprocal provision of logistic support supplies, and services between the military forces of one party by the other party in return for either cash payment or the reciprocal provision of logistic support, supplies, and services to the military forces of the other party,'' according to the document.

The agreement is to remain in force a period of 10 years, and will be subject to review by the parties at least one year before termination to consider the possibility of extending it under mutually acceptable terms, the document adds.

''Notwithstanding this, the parties may, at any time, terminate this agreement by means of a written notice to the other party, through diplomatic channels. Termination shall take effect six months following the date of notification,'' it notes.

Military analysts said the U.S. needs the MLSA more than the Philippines, more so because of the ongoing U.S. war against international terrorists. Thus, they said, the U.S. maintains similar access arrangements with other countries where the U.S. does not maintain a permanent military base, including in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh on the Indian subcontinent, and in Indonesia in the Southeast Asian region.

The proposed agreement, however, has angered militant groups in the Philippines, warning it will pave the way for the U.S. troops to openly operate in the Philippines.

The U.S. is wrapping up a joint counterterrorism exercise with the Philippine troops in the southern Philippines this month. The U.S. brought in communication equipment and other materiel during the six-month war games.

Many of its facilities, including its satellite systems, temporary shelters and other infrastructure, are not suited to being dismantled and carried back to their home bases.

With the MLSA, the equipment could remain in the Philippines and be used in the next war games that both forces plan to conduct in the future.

U.S. and Philippine troops are planning to start a series of joint war games again in October.

A senior defense official said the proposed agreement would enhance ''interoperability and supportability of U.S. military operations in the war against international terrorism. The agreement would actually complement the existing Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which the Philippines and the U.S. forged in May 1999.''.

The U.S. has been trying to forge an acquisition-and-cross-servicing agreement (ACSA) with the Philippines since 1994, but then President Fidel Ramos decided to shelve the plan following mounting opposition from militants.

The MLSA is apparently an ''ACSA-type arrangement under a different name,'' its opponents charge.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jul 29, 2002
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