Confusion, clarification

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

The confusion hounding the Duterte administration has not gone unnoticed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In a speech given by President Duterte at the Maskara festival in Bacolod City, he stated he was going to review the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

According to Duterte, the agreement was only signed by then secretary of defense Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, and not by then president Aquino. Duterte added that if the Americans cannot produce a "permit" with a signature, I assume of former president Aquino who allows them to continue with the war games and usage of certain bases, he will ask them to leave.

The AFP is now seeking clarification from the Department of National Defense on this matter. We have heard Duterte say that the only reason he was allowing this October's war games was so Secretary Lorenzana would not be embarrassed. But if he had his way, this year's war games would be the last.

The scheduled October war games are ongoing, Duterte's tirades aside. The US State Department has said that it has not received any official request regarding the cancellation of the war games, nor the scrapping of the EDCA.

On the other hand, DFA Sec. Yasay, the ever ready apologist of President Duterte, has reiterated that there is no need for a review of the EDCA, since the Supreme Court had already ruled on the Constitutionality of the said agreement, and therefore should be honored.

How this plays into Duterte's statements, or tirades of you will, remains to be seen. If I'm not mistaken, both parties to an agreement must also be consulted when the agreement is no longer viable, or desired.

The AFP may be showing some concern by asking for a clarification. The US is the longest and strongest ally of the country ever since World War II. We currently have three treaties with the US, the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the EDCA that bind and strengthen our relationship with the US, especially in terms of military aid and assistance.

For the AFP to voice some concern only shows that the AFP benefits from the US-Philippine joint military exercises, aside from the military aid we have been receiving all these years. The Americans are also here for humanitarian assistance should the need arise.

A shift in policy that veers the country away from the US may not be in the best interest for the country, or at least, the AFP. Is the military willing to trade their M4 rifles for Kalashnikovs?

It is no secret that this all stems from a sort of personal grudge President Duterte has towards the US. According to Duterte, the Chinese are now offering help they say the US will not give. It seems the situation is already being exploited, with Chinese officials winning the President's ear.

But I have to ask, is this what the people want? To veer away from a longtime friend and ally, to get closer to a country with which we still have issues with?

It seems the whole issue of the South China Sea and the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration has faded away. Our fishermen still cannot freely benefit from the waters off Scarborough Shoal, being turned away by Chinese vessels that have never left the area.


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