US Pacific Command chief to visit Palawan


MANILA, Philippines – US Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris was expected to arrive last night to meet with Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin at Camp Aguinaldo today.

Harris is also scheduled to meet with Armed Forces Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez in Palawan, the province nearest the disputed Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea.

“The purpose of the visit is to discuss bilateral security concerns with the Philippines and gain local perspective on the security situation in the Pacific, where his troops are deployed,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

The military, however, is tight-lipped on whether the West Philippine Sea row will be tackled during the meetings.

Officials are also mum on whether Harris will join an aerial surveillance mission over the West Philippine Sea.

“He (Harris) will also be going to Palawan but the topic is just bilateral security concerns,” Detoyato said.

“We are a disaster-prone area and most of the time, they (US) are the first ones to come and aid us. Interoperability is very important for communication and joint operations.”

Harris’ visit comes just a month after US Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift visited the Philippines and made a seven-hour surveillance mission over the West Philippine Sea.

Swift joined US Navy pilots on board a P-8A Poseidon spy plane to monitor the situation in the Spratlys.

“There is a growing security concern that is why we have to also coordinate with each other,” Detoyato said when asked why the visits of US military officials are becoming frequent.

“Even without the China issue, there is already a regular exchange of visits by the chiefs of staff (of the Philippines and the US).”

China’s neighbors are wary of its military buildup in the region, as well as its massive land reclamation in seven disputed reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

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