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Renato M. Reyes, Jr. BAYAN secretary general
December 1, 2014
Good morning to the honorable members of the Committee. We seek to answer the four questions provided us by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in relation to the EDCA, and show why the Philippines got the shorter end of the stick in the agreement.
Does the EDCA require Senate concurrence?
Following what is stated in the Constitution, the EDCA — because it involves US troops, bases and facilities — requires Senate concurrence.
The EDCA is not merely an implementation of existing agreements such as the MDT and VFA. With out conceding the validity of the MDT and VFA, we believe that the scope of the EDCA is broader than these two agreements.
The MDT cannot be the basis for the stationing of US troops in the country. There were already US troops in the Philippines before the signing of the MDT. The basis for the presence of US troops in the Philippines was the Military Bases Agreement of 1947, which pre-dates the MDT of 1951. The MBA was not renewed in 1991.
The VFA cannot be the mother agreement of EDCA since the VFA supposedly only contemplates temporary visits of US forces. Over the years however, this has been circumvented by the US and PH governments through the rotational deployment of troops. In any case, the VFA does not provide for the construction of permanent facilities which the EDCA allows.
Is the EDCA necessary?
The EDCA is not necessary for the defense of Philippine sovereignty or the advancement of our national interests.
The EDCA is part of the US strategic pivot to Asia. It was the US pivot which triggered negotiations for EDCA. Negotiations for EDCA started after the US and Philippines supposedly agreed on a new policy of “increased rotational presence” of US troops in 2012 or right after the new pivot policy was announced by Obama. In fact the original title of EDCA was “Framework Agreement for Increased Rotational Presence and Enhanced Defense Cooperation”.
The EDCA is only necessary insofar as securing US economic and military interests in the region is concerned. It is not necessary for the defense of Philippine sovereignty nor the upholding of our national interest. It is erroneous to state that the US and PH share a common interest. One is a superpower and one is third world nation. Their interests are vastly different, not identical.
The EDCA will not defend the Philippines against an armed attack by China. Nowhere in the agreement does it say so. Obama himself does not say so. Even EDCA’s supposed mother agreement the MDT offers no assurance of automatic US retaliation against China.
Is it beneficial?
The EDCA only gives false promises. It is not beneficial.
The EDCA will not lead to AFP modernization. Nowhere in the EDCA does it state how the AFP will modernize through the conduct of war games, the rotational deployment of US troops, the storage or prepositioning of weapons and other forms of interaction with US troops.
The agreement does not say how the AFP will acquire X amount of weapons, ammunition, vehicles, vessels and technology in exchange for the free use of our facilities. In fact, all relocatable or movable items owned by the US forces will be brought back to the US, leaving us with only empty buildings. They can bring home literally everything including the kitchen sink.
Prepositioned materiel which include weapons and other equipment shall be for the exclusive use of US forces and can be moved out of the country anytime. In the –US Department of Defense Military Dictionary, ”Materiel” refers to all items (including ships, tanks, self-propelled weapons, aircraft, etc., and related spares, repair parts, and support equipment, but excluding real property, installations, and utilities) necessary to equip, operate, maintain, and support military activities without distinction as to its application for administrative or combat purposes.
Finally, if indeed US military presence will lead to AFP modernization, we should be a superpower by now after 44 years of US bases and 15 years of the VFA.
The Aquino government also argues that the EDCA will help in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response, citing the benefits of US engagement during Yolanda. There were many countries who provided assistance during Yolanda. It is only the US that is seeking a military agreement in exchange for so-called humanitarian assistance. There are other viable forms of humanitarian assistance and disaster response that does not require the basing of foreign troops and violation of our sovereignty.
Is it practical?
Being unconstitutional, unnecessary and not beneficial, the EDCA would also be impractical
The EDCA is grossly disadvantageous for Filipinos. The EDCA allows the US to use our facilities rent-free and to use utilities such as water and electricity tax-free. The EDCA allows US forces and contractors unrestricted access to Agreed Locations but limits the access of Filipinos, subject to “operational and safety requirements.”
The EDCA is in effect indefinitely after 10 years, and may be in effect longer than the 1947 Military Bases Agreement which originally had a term of 99 years.
We welcome the actions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in asserting the Senate’s role in the crafting of foreign policy and in pointing out that the EDCA requires concurrence for it to be valid. It is high time that this one-sided and grossly disadvantageous agreement be stopped. It is high time we assert national sovereignty and national interest in the matter of EDCA. ###
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