The United States opened crucial talks Monday on the future of its military bases in the Philippines, saying it intends to remain a Pacific power regardless of the outcome of the discussions.
U.S. special negotiator Richard Armitage flew to Manila for the sixth and final round of talks on the facilities and immediately began discussions with Philippine Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus.Armitage carried a "far-reaching package" that he hoped would break an impasse on the major issues of compensation and duration, which have blocked an agreement on a renewal of the 1947 bases pact expiring in September, U.S. spokesman Stanley Schrager said.
"It is generous by the standards of what the United States can afford. We are hopeful that the Philippines will view it as such," said Schrager. He said the U.S. panel hopes an agreement will be reached during the week.
In an arrival statement, Armitage said he expected to be questioned closely in the U.S. Congress on the outcome of his discussions in the Philippines, which began last May.
Armitage said whatever decisions are made on the future of the sprawling Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station would reflect Philippine desires as a sovereign state.
But he added, "Although the U.S. prefers to play a positive role in the security of this region in partnership with the Philippines, the plain fact of the matter is that the U.S. shall remain a Pacific power."
"Although a significant part of our past was drawn from Europe, our future lies in Asia. What is more, the future is now. A lower profile in the Philippines, or none at all, will not deny this fundamental truth," Armitage said.