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Archive for January, 2012

U.S. Military Presence in Philippines January 27, 2012

Posted by Service Officer on 27th January 2012

Talks Ongoing

U.S. Military Presence in Philippines: Two decades after evicting U.S. forces from their biggest base in the Pacific, the Philippines is in talks with the Obama administration about expanding the American military presence in the island nation, the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at China. Although negotiations are in the early stages, officials from both governments said they are favorably inclined toward a deal. They are scheduled to intensify the discussions in late JAN in Washington before higher-level meetings in March. If an arrangement is reached, it would follow other recent agreements to base thousands of U.S. Marines in northern Australia and to station Navy warships in Singapore. Among the options under consideration are operating Navy ships from the Philippines, deploying troops on a rotational basis and staging more frequent joint exercises. Under each scenario, U.S. forces would effectively be guests at existing foreign bases.

The sudden rush by many in the Asia-Pacific region to embrace Washington is a direct reaction to China’s rise as a military power and its assertiveness in staking claims to disputed territories, such as the energy-rich South China Sea. “We can point to other countries: Australia, Japan, Singapore,” said a senior Philippine official involved in the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of the deliberations. “We’re not the only one doing this, and for good reason. We all want to see a peaceful and stable region. Nobody wants to have to face China or confront China.” The strategic talks with the Philippines are in addition to feelers that the Obama administration has put out to other Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and Thailand, about possibly bolstering military partnerships. The United States already has about 600 Special Operations troops in the Philippines, where they advise local forces in their fight with rebels sympathetic to al-Qaeda. But the talks underway between Manila and Washington potentially involve a much more extensive partnership. Officials in the Philippines — which has 7,107 islands — said their priority is to strengthen maritime defenses, especially near the South China Sea. They indicated a willingness to host American ships and surveillance aircraft.

Although the U.S. military has tens of thousands of troops stationed at long-standing bases in Japan, South Korea and Guam, as well as the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, it is seeking to solidify its presence in Southeast Asia. Some of the world’s busiest trade routes pass through the South China Sea and the nearby Strait of Malacca. Instead of trying to establish giant bases reminiscent of the Cold War, however, Pentagon officials said they want to maintain a light footprint. “We have no desire nor any interest in creating a U.S.-only base in Southeast Asia,” said Robert Scher, a deputy assistant secretary of defense who oversees security policy in the region. “In each one of these cases, the core decision and discussion is about how we work better with our friends and allies. And the key piece of that is working from their locations.” The distinction is critical in the Philippines, which kicked the U.S. military out of its sprawling naval base at Subic Bay in 1992 after lawmakers rejected a new treaty. Along with the nearby Clark Air Base, which the Pentagon abandoned in 1991 after a volcanic eruption, Subic Bay had served as a keystone of the U.S. military presence in Asia for nearly a century.

.Manila and Washington signed a subsequent agreement that allows U.S. forces to visit the archipelago or deploy there periodically while remaining under U.S. legal jurisdiction. The constitution of the Philippines forbids foreign military bases without a treaty. “There are political sensitivities, and the U.S. is aware of that,” said a senior Philippine official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations. “So how can we achieve that presence without it costing too much in terms of political friction?” Philippine officials said they favor allowing the United States to deploy more troops or ships, as long as they rotate periodically or are considered temporary. Temporary, however, can still mean a long time. The 600 U.S. Special Operations troops in the Philippines have been on the southern island of Mindanao since 2002, and there is no firm timetable to withdraw them. The number of port visits by U.S. Navy ships has soared in recent years. The Philippines recently acquired a cutter from the U.S. Coast Guard and is seeking two more of the ships to boost its naval forces. It also wants to buy F-16 fighter jets from Washington.

In interviews, neither Philippine nor Obama administration officials would rule out a return by U.S. ships or forces to Subic Bay. The harbor is now a thriving economic hub and free-trade zone, so any American military presence would pale in comparison with the old days. But even a small, visiting U.S. force in the Philippines would send a strong signal to Beijing. Although Washington has said it is not trying to contain China’s rise as an economic and military superpower, Obama announced a new military strategy this month under which the Pentagon will “rebalance” the armed forces toward the Asia-Pacific region in the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some advocates said the shift in emphasis to Asia was long overdue, given its economic importance and China’s rise. “I don’t really see this as a pivot. .?.?. What I see now is a return to a necessary normal,” said Sen. James Webb (D-VA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs. “The presence of the United States has become the essential ingredient for stability.”

In addition to the Philippines, Vietnam — another country that once shunned the U.S. military — is restoring ties. In August, a U.S. Navy ship visited the Vietnamese naval base at Cam Ranh Bay for the first time in 38 years. Cam Ranh Bay is a deep-water harbor that served as one of the largest American military installations during the Vietnam War. Vietnam, which has its own territorial disputes with China, has slowly opened its bases to the U.S. Navy for port visits and ship repairs since 2009. “I don’t see in the near future an American base in Vietnam, but we have seen much more increased military cooperation,” said Webb, a former Navy secretary who fought in Vietnam as a Marine. “They’re not shutting down their relationship with China, but they’re attempting to balance it.” Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, has called Southeast Asia the region with “perhaps the greatest potential in the future” for the Navy to increase its presence through military partnerships. In a Jan. 10 speech to the Center for a New American Security in Washington, he singled out the Philippines as a country “where perhaps there will be more opportunities emerging,” although he didn’t elaborate. Greenert cautioned that some of those partnerships would be limited, saying, “Not everybody is interested in getting in an alliance and getting tied up in a long term.” He cited Vietnam as an example. “We don’t want to push it too hard,” he said. “If you move a little too fast, there’s a hesi¬ta¬tion.” [Source: Washington Post Craig Whitlock article 25 Jan 2012 ++]

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TRICARE Provider List Philippines

Posted by Service Officer on 25th January 2012

17 JAN 2012

TRICARE Provider List Philippines: The current TMA and ISOS provided Certified Provider list available at http://www.tricare.mil/tma/pacific/pacificCertifiedProviders.aspx does not offer any mechanism to easily identify added or removed providers nor is there any way to determine when existing previously certified provider’s addresses or cities have changed. This is of concern to beneficiaries who have submitted or will be submitting claims because:

• Providers that have changes made to their addresses or city are of some importance as the changes may trigger disapprovals of previously approved claims for a provider when the receipts may no longer match the new addresses.

• Beneficiaries should be able to easily identify providers that have been decertified without having to check every provider on the list in their provider base every two weeks.

• Beneficiaries should be able to easily find added providers for those that have claims pending certification of a provider.

• There should be a convenient way for beneficiaries to determine new additions to the provider base in their area without having to review each and every provider in the entire list every two weeks.

Because of these concerns and to assist TRICARE beneficiaries residing in the Philippines the U.S. Military Retirees of the Philippines have produced a supplemental list to the 17 January 2012 Certified Provider List. The supplement is in 5 sections:

• Introduction

• Providers Added Since 1 January 2011

• Providers Removed Since 1 January 2011

• Providers with Changed Addresses Since 1 January 2011

• Providers with Changed Cities Since 1 January 2011

This listing will be updated with each TMA/ISOS update of the certified provider list and the updates can be accessed at http://db.tt/3fROsC4T or viewed by opening the attachment to this message. When the names or addresses of your providers do not match the “official” list, WPS must send ISOS a request to conduct a “new provider” certification, which has and will slow the reimbursement of the claim. It is recommended that beneficiaries verify the name, (spelling), and how it is listed on the certified provider list. Some examples of variance of the official receipts verses the certified provider list that have caused delays in the past are;

• Santos,John R., MD instead of Santos, John R., MD, (the missing space after the comma has caused the claims processor to request a new certification);

• Santos, John Reyes, MD instead of Santos, John R., MD, which will also cause the claims processor to request a new certification.

The same problem will occur with addresses that are not identical on the “official receipt” as to that of the official certified provider list. Beneficiaries are encouraged to check the newest certified provider list for any provider that they have or are going to use and ensure that the official receipt name and address is identical to the certified provider list. If they find that it is not identical they should request the provider to give them a receipt that is identical. If that is not possible, then it is suggested they annotate the variances on the copy of the receipt sent with the claim and explain that this is the same provider as listed on the certified provider list. [Source: U.S. Military Retirees of the Philippines notice 23 Jan 2012 ++]

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January 09, 2012 EMERGENCY MESSAGE-Feast of the Black Nazarene

Posted by Service Officer on 9th January 2012

EMERGENCY MESSAGE-Feast of the Black Nazarene

January 09, 2012

THE EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES IS TRANSMITTING THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION AS A PUBLIC SERVICE TO U.S. CITIZENS IN THE PHILIPPINES. PLEASE DISSEMINATE THIS MESSAGE TO ALL U.S. CITIZENS IN YOUR ORGANIZATION OR NEIGHBORHOOD. THANK YOU.

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Feast of the Black Nazarene

The U.S. Embassy advises U.S. Citizens in the Philippines to avoid areas of Manila where devotees of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo are expected to hold a procession on January 9, 2012. In a nation-wide address January 8, President Aquino noted the risk of possible terrorist activity associated with the procession and subsequent observances. The President of the Philippines counseled that security would be facilitated if celebrants would remain in their homes instead of attending the public procession. Failing that, participants were asked not to bring cell phones, fireworks, or backpacks to the celebrations. Those visiting or residing in the Metro Manila area should expect to see enhanced security precautions, and should comply with all requests by security officials. Maps of the procession routes and related traffic disturbances can be found at http://www.mmda.gov.ph/192012-rerouting.html.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. The Worldwide Caution reminds U.S. citizens that terrorism can occur anywhere.

We encourage all U.S. citizens in the Philippines to enroll with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. By enrolling, you can receive the Embassy’s most recent security and safety updates during your trip. Enrolling also ensures that we can reach you, or your designated emergency points of contact, during an emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section’s fax number is 63-2-301-2017, and you may reach the ACS Section by email at ACSinfoManila@state.gov. The ACS Section’s website includes consular information and the most recent messages to the U.S. citizen community in the Philippines.

U.S. citizens should also review the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for the Philippines and stay up to date by bookmarking the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and become a fan of the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips. If you don’t have internet access, current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States, or for callers from other countries, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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