Palace mum on Duterte, Yasay’s conflicting statements on EDCA

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang yesterday declined to comment on the seemingly conflicting statements of President Duterte and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US.

“That policy statement, it’s beyond my pay grade,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing.

As this developed, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, asked the Duterte administration to approach the EDCA issue carefully.

Honasan said Malacañang must first “build a consensus” with Congress and even the judiciary on Duterte’s call to have the EDCA reviewed.

On Sunday, Duterte said he wanted a review of the defense deal, noting that the agreement did not contain the signature of former president Benigno Aquino III.

Yasay, however, clarified the following day that there was no need to review EDCA for now as the Supreme Court has upheld its legality. “We have to respect it,” Yasay said in a radio interview last Monday.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said the bilateral agreement was discussed during the Cabinet meeting last Monday but could not provide details as it was done behind closed doors.

EDCA was signed by the Philippines and the United States on April 28, 2014. Then defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the agreement, which granted American troops access to Philippine military bases.

The bilateral deal was seen as a response to China’s muscle flexing in the South China Sea.

University of the Philippines College of Law professor Jay Batongbacal and former Ateneo School of Government dean Antonio La Viña both wrote on Facebook that the signatures of Gazmin and Goldberg were enough to make the agreement binding since they were the duly authorized representatives of the two countries.

“I hope the President has been briefed that the president never signs an international agreement. He authorizes his foreign affairs secretary or other high level official to do it on his and the country’s behalf,” La Viña said in his FB post. – With Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Ding Cervantes, Artemio Dumlao

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