Duterte eyes review of EDCA
(The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte continued his anti-US rhetoric yesterday as he vowed to review the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which grants American troops access to Philippine military bases.

Duterte said the two-year-old defense deal does not contain the signature of a Philippine president.

“Now, may I remind the Americans that EDCA is an official document but it’s only signed by an aide and (former defense secretary Voltaire) Gazmin. It does not bear the signature of the president of the Republic of the Philippines,” Duterte said in a speech during the opening of the MassKara festival in Bacolod City.

“It does not contain the signature of (former president (Benigno) Aquino. There is none. Better think twice now because I would be asking you to leave the Philippines altogether,” he added.

Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the EDCA at Camp Aguinaldo on April 28, 2014.

The 10-year agreement permits US forces to build temporary facilities in Philippine bases to strengthen the country’s equipment-deficient military.

A product of eight-month negotiations, EDCA was viewed as a response to the aggressiveness of China, a rival claimant of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute.

Some former lawmakers and activists questioned the legality of the agreement before the Supreme Court, believing the deal requires the ratification of the Senate.

The Supreme Court upheld the legality of EDCA last January. The high court ruled that EDCA is a “valid executive agreement” that the President can enter into under the Constitution.

Some lawmakers, however, are convinced that a chief executive can easily scrap EDCA because it is just an executive agreement, not a treaty ratified by the Senate.

“After a review of that document, if I find no signature, if you cannot produce a signature bearing the permit allowing you to come here and to conduct war games, ask your military not me,” Duterte said without elaborating.

It remains unclear what would happen if the US fails to find a signature of the president in the EDCA. What is sure though is Duterte is still angry with the US government’s remarks on his anti-drug war.

“You make it hard for me, you insult me internationally, fine, do it,” Duterte said.

The US State Department has expressed concern over Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, which has so far claimed the lives of about 3,000 suspected drug offenders. US President Barack Obama has also reminded Duterte to enforce his narcotics crackdown “the right way.”

Duterte, however, viewed the US statements as interference in the Philippines’ affairs and said Washington has no moral ascendancy to lecture on human rights because of its atrocities against Filipino Muslims during the early 20th century.

While Duterte said in his previous speeches that he would not cut ties with the US, he issued what appeared to be a threat against Americans whom he accused of disrespecting him.

“You know these Americans, I said I’ll open up another front in our foreign policy. If you are that disrespectful, you disrespect me, I said let’s just part ways,” he said.  

Last week, Duterte said the bilateral military exercises between the Philippines and US would end within his term but officials maintained the administration would honor all international agreements including those signed with the US. 

Alliance

 Duterte reiterated he would seek stronger ties with China and Russia, countries widely perceived to be rivals of the US.

He revealed the leaders of Russia and China have expressed readiness to help the Philippines during separate bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Laos last month. 

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