MANILA, Philippines - Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas yesterday pushed for a military “base-sharing” scheme with the United States to strengthen the country’s security without having to violate the Constitution and angering China.
Treñas, chairman of the House committee on good government, expressed support for the further enhancement of the country’s defense ties with the US but stressed it should be done within the bounds of the Philippine Constitution.
“We agree with the stand of President Aquino, who said that expansion of defense cooperation with the US should never deviate from the country’s existing laws, especially the Constitution,” he said.
Treñas said strengthening or expanding relations with any country “should be on a mutually beneficial level without sacrificing relations with other nations, especially neighboring countries in Asia and the Pacific.”
“If and when there is a need to improve the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement, it should only cover areas of cooperation such as refueling, repair and logistics support for its aircraft and warships using already existing facilities and Filipino labor,” he said.
He said establishing exclusive facilities for the US military even on a temporary arrangement should be out of the question as this can be already be considered as setting up of a military base which violates the Constitution.
“One arrangement which can be studied is a base-sharing scheme but only for the purpose of refueling, repair and logistics support which can be reciprocated by the US by modernizing our own military camps with the latest defense technologies which could help us protect our territories not only from incursions in the disputed areas in the South China Sea but also from smuggling, illegal fishing, piracy and other maritime crimes,” Treñas said.
Treñas cited reports that the US Congress is set to approve the transfer of a second ship to the Philippine Navy, saying this is a “positive step” that would help the country patrol its 36,000 nautical miles of coastline and beef up its lowly 132-ship naval force Last year, the US transferred a Hamilton class cutter, which was recently sent on a mission to the Spratlys.