Senators divided on SC ruling on EDCA
Senators divided on SC ruling on EDCA
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Senators were divided on the Supreme Court (SC) ruling upholding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the US and the Philippines.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile both welcomed the SC ruling and saw this benefiting the country in the long term.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., on the other hand, questioned the decision of the SC, maintaining the EDCA is a treaty that must be ratified by the Senate.

Drilon, who abstained from the voting on the resolution filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago calling for concurrence of the EDCA by the Senate, said the high court has found the agreement to be constitutional and as such, must be respected.

He said the EDCA is an executive agreement only and therefore no longer has to be sent to the Senate for concurrence like a treaty.

“This is merely an executive agreement because there was no amendment in any treaty but is just implementing the VFA that was ratified by the Senate in the late ’90s,” Drilon said, referring to the Visiting Forces Agreement.

“This is a document that will define our existing security agreement, which is particularly important now that we are facing a huge challenge in the South China Sea,” he added.

If and when conflict breaks out between the Philippines and any country, Drilon said the VFA would be the basis for whatever action the US will take, not the EDCA.

“Whatever is the obligation of the US under the VFA remains intact. Nothing was added or removed with the EDCA. It is merely an implementation of our obligations and the obligations of America,” Drilon said.

Drilon also allayed fears the US could now set up military bases in the Philippines with the implementation of the EDCA.

“This will not happen with the EDCA because a new treaty must be in place in order to establish bases and this must be ratified by the Senate. There is no foreign military base in the Philippines under the EDCA,” he said.

Enrile, who also abstained from the voting on the resolution, said the Philippines needs the assistance of its allies just like the US now more than ever because of the tensions over the West Philippine Sea.

He said that the Philippines has made an enemy out of China and so must do everything it can to protect itself, including allying with a stronger power such as the US.

“That is why I said that we must stay with America under our present condition. It’s a matter of necessity for us. Wisely, the Supreme Court made a courageous decision in spite of the public reaction to sustain the EDCA in order to protect the Filipino people and this nation from possible enslavement for centuries by a giant power in Asia,” Enrile said.

Marcos said he suspects the administration deliberately classified the EDCA as an executive agreement for fear that the Senate would not ratify it.

Militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan continued to criticize the SC ruling, which it said is a violation of the country’s national sovereignty.

Sheena Duazo, secretary general of the Bayan Southern Mindanao region chapter, said EDCA cannot help in resolving the crisis in the West Philippine Sea.

Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the SC ruling on EDCA appears “that US does not really like to leave the Philippine Islands. They have been here all the time. And Filipinos keep on going to the US and staying there.”

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, for his part, said it is now up to the country’s leaders to make the right move after the SC ruling on EDCA. – With Edith Regalado, Evelyn Macairan

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