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U.S.-Philippine Talks Bogged Down on Payments Issue

From Associated Press

U.S. and Philippine negotiators ended a fourth day of talks Thursday on the future of American bases in the Philippines without reporting any breakthroughs.

The two sides disagree on whether the United States failed to make full aid payments, and on when the facilities would actually have to close if the two sides cannot reach a lease agreement.

After this round of talks, which is to end today, the two sides could either begin formal negotiations on a new pact or start working on a schedule for closing the bases. Their lease expires in September, 1991, but the United States contends that the bases could remain one year longer under the current agreement.

The installations include Clark Air Base, the Subic Bay Naval Base and four smaller facilities.

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The two sides met into the evening Thursday to try to resolve a Philippine claim that the United States owes $222 million in back payments for use of the bases.

In 1988, the Reagan Administration agreed to provide $962 million over two years in return for use of the bases through 1991. Congress subsequently cut the Bush Administration’s aid request.

U.S. officials insist that they promised only “best efforts” to meet the target and that the aid cut was not a breach of faith.

“We have not conceded that there is a shortfall,” said the spokesman for the U.S. delegation, Stanley Schrager. “We have lived up to our commitment, and we have made our best effort.”

President Corazon Aquino suggested Thursday that the United States could pay off the “debt” by providing medical equipment and other supplies to the Philippines.

U.S. sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is willing to provide additional equipment to the Philippines but that it would not be designated as payment of any debt.

Aquino said Thursday it is too early to say whether the two sides have reached an impasse.


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