WHILE the Philippines’ dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea is not covered by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the US will abide by its treaty with the Philippines if it turns into a shooting war, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said Saturday.
“Edca isn’t directly related to the South China Sea [West Philippine Sea] issues. It’s about the United States helping its ally, the Philippines, as it goes about building a minimum credible defense,” Goldberg said in an interview with the GMA Network.
“It’s not aimed at any country or the disagreements in the South China Sea,” Goldberg said, but in case of a “shooting war,” the US will be ready to abide by the Mutual Defense Treaty it signed with the Philippines in 1951.
“The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States. President Obama, when he was here, said that the treaty is ironclad. We take seriously our responsibilities, our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Goldberg said.
He, however, said that the US is not anticipating a “shooting war” due to the sea disputes.
“That is a hypothetical situation. You have to know what the circumstances are,” he said.
Goldberg made the remark as he lauded the decision of the Supreme Court, in its first en banc session for the year, to uphold the constitutionality of the Edca, which allows increased rotational presence of US troops in the country.
The high court voted 10 in favor, four against and one taking no part. Those who dissented to the majority ruling were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Marvic Leonen.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio wrote a concurring opinion while De Castro, Brion, and Leonen wrote their respective dissenting opinions.
Under the agreement, the US will be allowed to build structures, store as well as pre-position weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years.
The US envoy also made the remark amid growing fears in Southeast Asia that China’s activities in disputed waters is adding to tensions in the region, Malacañang said.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed that the Philippines is determined to “assert the importance of freedom of navigation and over flight” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely.
The building of additional runways contributes to heightened tensions in the region, Coloma said.
“We reiterate that these actions by China violate not only pertinent international laws but also the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea of which China is a signatory, along with the member countries of [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” he added.
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