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Philippines, U.S. OK Military Pact

January 13, 1998

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The Philippines and the United States have concluded an agreement that would allow the resumption of long-postponed joint military exercises.

The accord will provide legal protection for U.S. service members visiting the Philippines for military exercises.

``We have mutually reached agreement upon the substance of the visiting forces agreement,″ a U.S. Embassy official said.

But embassy and Philippine officials declined to give details of the accord, which was reached Monday in Manila.

The United States halted all joint exercises on Philippine territory and visits by U.S. military ships last December, when the Manila government ended a legal loophole that had shielded U.S. military personnel from prosecution by the Philippines for crimes committed here.

Other countries, including Britain and Singapore, also have suspended military exercises with the Philippines because of a lack of agreement on legal protection for their soldiers.

American troops were granted immunity from criminal prosecution during the nearly a century of U.S. military presence in the Philippines, a former U.S. colony.

However, after the last American base was closed in 1992 after the Philippine Senate refused to renew its lease, U.S. military personnel formally lost immunity.

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