Phl, US military execs to discuss EDCA today

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino and American military officials are set to meet today to discuss key security issues, including details of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. confirmed yesterday that the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and the Security Engagement Board (SEB) would start convening in Manila today.

“Tomorrow (Oct. 13) will be the start of our MDB-SEB meetings with our US counterpart so I won’t be able to come here,” Catapang told troops of the 2nd Marine Brigade in Sulu.

Catapang was referring to efforts to ensure the safety of two Germans kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf when he mentioned the MDB-SEB meetings.

In an earlier interview, Catapang said among the topics that may be tackled during the meetings with US officials is the location of the facilities to be set up by the US under the EDCA.

He said discussions would be held so that the plans would be ready in case the Supreme Court issues a favorable ruling on the EDCA. The plans would be put on hold if the high court declares the agreement unconstitutional, he added.

“Important matters will be discussed, including where they (US) want to reposition their humanitarian equipment and what areas can be developed for pre-positioning,” Catapang told reporters last week.

“The planning should be continuous. If a favorable decision is issued, we can execute the plans immediately,” he added.

The MDB and the SEB serve as venues for security cooperation between the Philippines and the US. The MDB is concerned with inter-governmental coordination while SEB focuses on non-traditional security threats like transnational crime, maritime security, and disasters.

The Philippines and the US signed the EDCA last April in a move widely interpreted as an effort to counter Chinese aggression.

Officials claim the 10-year deal will help modernize the Philippine military, one of the weakest in the region.

The agreement will allow the US to build temporary facilities and to store equipment in Philippine military bases. Officials are now discussing what camps will be covered by the deal, which was negotiated for eight months.

Three petitions questioning the legality of the EDCA have been filed before the Supreme Court.

The first petition was filed by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, two of the twelve lawmakers who voted to shut down the US bases in the Philippines in 1991.

They believe EDCA has no legal basis because the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US has been superseded by the 1987 Constitution, which renounces war as a national policy.

The second petition was filed by lawmakers who belong to the Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives and leaders of different groups. They claim EDCA would only benefit the US and could lead to “a derogation of our country’s dignity and an unconscionable sellout of our sovereignty.”

The third petition, filed by the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement, argued that the deal violated constitutional provisions on national sovereignty, territorial integrity and interests, freedom from nuclear weapons and autonomy of local government units.

Catapang’s predecessor, retired general Emmanuel Bautista, previously stated he wanted military sites in Palawan, Zambales, and Nueva Ecija to host the US facilities.

Bautista said the facilities in Oyster Bay in Palawan, Naval Station San Miguel in Zambales, and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija need to be developed to accommodate training activities and military assets.

In an earlier interview, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado confirmed they are offering all of their eight bases for the agreement.


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