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MANILA, Philippines –- The Philippines on Wednesday welcomed a plan by the U.S. military to transfer its military equipment to the country so it could be used -- faster -- when responding to disasters and humanitarian crises in the Asia-Pacific region.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines has had initial talks with Washington about such proposals.
“We obviously think that a cooperation with the U.S. would be helpful in terms of disaster response and management,” Del Rosario told reporters in an interview.
U.S. officials are considering to send military equipment that would be moved from Afghanistan, where Washington is drawing down its military presence, to Asian countries like the Philippines and Singapore, so these can be used in responding to major disasters or humanitarian crises in the Asia-Pacific.
That would allow American forces to respond faster to Asian emergencies and save on the cost of transporting those equipment from the U.S. and non-Asian points.
Diplomatic analysts say the plan reflects Washington's move to reassert its role as an Asia Pacific power, a move that has brought it to a collision course with Asian superpower China, which has been wary of the increasing U.S. activities in the region.
If the plan materializes, Manila hopes Washington would consider leaving the equipment or assets in the country for joint use by the Philippines and the U.S., Del Rosario said.
“We don’t know where those assets are coming from but, yes, we’ve had those preliminary discussions on their assisting us and the advantage of having those equipment in the Philippines,” del Rosario said.
Asked if the transfer would require a separate agreement with the U.S., Del Rosario said: “I don’t think so. It’s obviously to our advantage.”
Situated in the Pacific and in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruption and typhoons.
Each year, the country is visited by at least 23 to 24 typhoons.
“We’re looking to the U.S. and to other countries as well for assistance in terms of disaster management and response, especially as we see it now we are constantly being threatened and we are being disadvantaged by natural disasters that we are experiencing,” Del Rosario said.
“It’s not a matter of if but a matter of when. So this is part of being ready for that,” he said.