THE United Kingdom (UK) is looking to sign a new defense agreement with the Philippines by October, with the possibility of bringing British military expertise into the country.
British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said they are looking at several directions with the new agreement that is being worked on, including the holding of military exercises.
“I do not rule that out, but it will be wrong for me to say that it is next on the horizon because we are at all sorts of stretches of commitment in many possible ways. But there are lots of military exchanges,” Ahmad said.
He added: “On the training side, that is much more advanced. But I will not describe it as British troops coming here because that sounds a bit emotive. It is British expertise coming here. It is not a VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement].”
Ahmad said there is a need to revise the old agreement, as it lacks specifics on what both sides can do.
“I much rather that, at least, we have a framework under which we are operating. We just want to expand the scope a little bit to cover some of what we learned during the Typhoon Haiyan,” Ahmad added, while explaining that a lot of what transpired during that time was done very informally.
Ahmad said there are limited protocols and they want to sit down and regularize the procedures. He said the old agreement just allowed them to explore opportunities, exchange visits and development studies.
According to Ahmad, the new agreement that is being worked on will be open-ended and subject to reviews.
Meanwhile, on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) tension, Ahmad said they regard the area as international airspace. He also said they have an assurance from China that ships passing there would not be challenged.
Ahmad said that, if ships from other nations were prevented from going through, they can go to the UK, and as member of the United Nations Security Council, they would use appropriate language to register a complaint.
Because of the tension in the West Philippine Sea, the country had embarked on a military modernization program.
Ahmad said the Armed Forces of the Philippines is purchasing close-support helicopters. He said the Philippine government is also giving serious consideration to another helicopter he has recommended.
Ahmad advised for the Philippines to follow Thailand’s model of building their own warships using British-provided weapon system and engineers. He said it also goes for military aircraft.