Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario speaks during a Nov. 25 joint press conference in Manila. (Jay Directo / Getty Images)
MANILA — The swift US humanitarian response to the devastation of Super Typhoon Haiyan highlights the need to expand America’s military presence in the Philippines, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Monday.
He said a proposed agreement to strengthen the US military presence, which was being negotiated as the storm struck on Nov. 8, would allow for the easier delivery of relief aid by US forces in the future.
“I think the typhoon demonstrates the need for this framework,” del Rosario told reporters after meeting a US congressional delegation.
“It accentuates one of the main purposes of this framework, which is to make humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and response one of the major aspects of this agreement.”
The proposed deal would allow more US troops, aircraft and ships to pass through the Philippines at a time when Washington is refocusing its attention on Asia.
It had also been seen as a counterweight to Chinese moves in the South China Sea, where Beijing has territorial disputes with US ally Manila.
Despite months of talks, the Philippine and US governments have failed to sign the agreement due to some differences in their respective positions.
However the United States, particularly its military, has burnished its image in the former US colony through its extensive relief work after the typhoon ravaged the central Philippine islands, leaving almost 7,000 dead or missing.
Planes and helicopters from a US carrier group are leading an airlift of emergency aid to dozens of affected towns and villages.
“We want to be part of the solution,” US House of Representatives member Christopher Smith, who headed a congressional delegation to inspect the relief efforts, told a joint news conference.
He said del Rosario mentioned that the Philippines would need $1.3 billion to rebuild storm-damaged houses.
A USAID statement on its website said the United States had provided nearly $52 million in aid since the typhoon hit.
A US military statement also said that at its peak, 13 US ships and nearly 8,000 American sailors and Marines were involved in the relief efforts, particularly in transporting much-needed food and water.
The Philippines previously hosted huge US military bases but the last of these closed in 1992.
Washington says it does not seek new bases but only a greater “rotational” presence.