Washington and Manila could reach an agreement within weeks to allow two major military bases to remain in the Philippines, Secretary of State George P. Shultz and President Corazon Aquino said today.
"I think it's quite possible," Shultz said of an earlier statement by Aquino that "we both hope that the talks will be over by the end of the month."
"I have been . . . kicking (Ambassador) Nick Platt in the rear end and telling him to get going," Shultz said.
He would not say how the apparent breakthrough had been achieved. Agreement would end months of uncertainty over the future of Washington's two biggest military facilities in Asia, Clark Air Base and Subic Navy Base.
A major disputed point has been the amount of money paid to the Philippines by the United States as part of the agreement.
Under the current arrangement, Washington promised its "best efforts" to provide $180 million over five years. It has exceeded that rate of funding since Aquino came to power in a civilian-backed military revolt in 1986.
Many Filipinos believe their country has been shortchanged and want an increase in aid, but Washington is having difficulty making promises because of U.S. budget problems.
Shultz, who met Aquino for half an hour with Platt and Aquino adviser Teddy Locsin, said the issue of compensation was discussed.
"We talked about ways of going about it and I think we have identified perhaps some methods that might work," he said.
Shultz declined to provide details but earlier, after a breakfast meeting with the secretary of state, Sen. Agapito (Butz) Aquino told reporters that improved trade arrangements between the two countries was one non-cash benefit under discussion.
The current review of the agreement on bases is a preliminary step to talks in 1991, when the actual agreement expires and must undergo even more complex negotiations if the bases are to be maintained.