SENATOR Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Wednesday he was baffled why the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement was not drafted as a treaty that would require the Senate’s approval.
“Perhaps, they were scared it will not be ratified in the Senate,” said Marcos, one of those who favored the resolution filed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago stating that Edca needs the concurrence of the senators.
Marcos made the statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision this week stating that Edca, as an executive agreement, did not need the Senate’s approval because it merely implemented existing treaties.
“While the Supreme Court already made a decision, I beg to disagree with the Supreme Court. I believe that this is in fact a treaty, and as an international treaty, it must be ratified by the Senate. That is our procedure, that is the way we in the Senate handle international treaties,” Marcos said.
He added that he was not opposed to Edca per se, but felt the Senate must play a role in its ratification.
In contrast, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile applauded the Supreme Court ruling because the government was not prepared on its own to secure the country and needs to ally with a strong power like the United States.
“We already slapped China. We started the fiery statements. The worst that you can do to China… is make them lose face and now it is difficult to mend,” Enrile said in a radio interview.
“So what do we have to do? We have to act on our own. And since we can’t act on our own, we have to ally ourselves with a stronger power and that is America, that’s why I said recently, we must stay with America under our present condition to survive,” he added.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV also applauded the Court’s decision, saying it validated his position that Edca does need not to be ratified by the Senate.
“But, more importantly, our country can now optimize the security opportunities this agreement has given us,” he added.
Trillanes was the lone senator to oppose Santiago’s resolution and maintained that Edca was an executive agreement that implements the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries, and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.
A spokesman for the Armed Forces said Wednesday that all major military camps are being considered as bases under the Edca. Under the agreement, the US can build military facilities under the supervision of the Defense Department and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Some of these camps are Fort Magsaysay, the home of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division and Special Operations Command in Nueva Ecija; Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP General Headquarters in Quezon City; Camp Peralta, home of the 3rd ID in Capiz; and Benito Ebuen Airbase (Mactan Airbase).
Major camps in Central Visayas, especially the headquarters (Camp Lapu-Lapu) of the Central Command in Cebu would become “jumping boards for the disaster response operations” and all other agreed locations where American troops and equipment would be stationed.
Existing camps in Palawan, home of the Western Command, can also be used by American troops.
“As long as there is agreement, yes, it was part of the list that was offered,” AFP spokesman Restituto Padilla said.
Padilla added that the AFP is keen to develop Ulugan (Oyster) Bay in Palawan facing the West Philippine Sea as a possible major navy port where American warships could be stationed.
The list also includes the former US base in Subic Bay, where visiting warships from the US and other allies dock and land, as well as Army bases in Mindanao.
Padilla said discussions on how the Edca would be implemented could resume soon.
In the House, lawmakers said the government must capitalize on the favorable Edca ruling to fully modernize the country’s military hardware.
“The government should take the opportunity to fully modernized the country’s military equipment by urging the United States to provide us tanks, war ships, patrol boats, surveillance and fighter aircrafts, and extend other support such as training,” said Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent minority bloc in the House and president of the Philippine Constitution.
“This will help secure the sovereignty and integrity of the country’s national territory.”
“Edca would establish a minimum credible territorial defense, maritime security and maritime domain awareness for the country. We laud and support the ruling as Philconsa is for protecting and defending the Constitution, which talks about securing the Filipino people and the pact enhances this mandate,” Romualdez added.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, said the Court ruling should pave the way for the government to ensure that the AFP will become fully modernized in terms of war materiel and equipment before President Benigno Aquino III steps down in June.
Albano said it is about time that the AFP upgrade its air and naval assets so that frequent surveillance of the contested islands in the West Philippine Sea can be conducted.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan, however, lamented the Supreme Court decision.
“The SC just gave its imprimatur to an agreement that transforms the entire nation into a military outpost and exposes us to war. Bad news,” Ilagan said.
In an en banc session, the Court affirmed the validity of Edca that provided for the increased rotational presence of US troops in the country.
Under the Edca, the US government is permitted to build structures, store as well as preposition 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 from 2014 to 2024.
The SC decision affirming the constitutionality of the Edca comes amid an ongoing dispute between the Philippines and China over overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
The Philippines and the US signed Edca in April 2014, widely seen as a response to China’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea.