Santiago: Defense pact will further antagonize China
MANILA, Philippines—Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) will further antagonize China.
“Definitely the new Agreement, whatever it may contain, will further antagonize China because in effect, we consent that the Philippines should be listed under the American column, instead of the China column,” Santaigo said in a statement Monday.
“If China reaches out to Russia while the Ukraine issue continues to simmer, the US will certainly call on the Philippines to fulfil treaty obligation under the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty,” she said.
The agreement was signed by US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin after eight rounds of negotiations over two years.
Philippines and China are locked in a maritime dispute over the Spratly Group of Islands and Scarborough shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) with several incidents of Chinese ships expelling Filipino boats from the area.
The agreement allows US military troops access to Philippine military bases as well as to construct buildings in the bases which will be owned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) upon completion.
Militant groups are protesting the agreement saying that it violates the Philippine constitution for allowing “de facto US basing.”
“No matter how much the US denies it, US troops have been stationed in the Philippines since 2002 under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr., said in a statement.
“Goldberg’s denials on permanent basing are worthless,” he said.
Santiago said that the agreement was an “unfair surprise” for the Senate because it needs to concur on treaties or agreements before they can take effect.
“This is an unfair surprise on the Philippines Senate which, under the Constitution, shares the treaty-making power with the President,” Santiago said.
“Obviously, I have no basis for assessing whether the Agreement is positive for my country. The Senate has not been given the courtesy of being furnished with a copy. I feel as if I have been slapped, or ordered to melt into the wallpaper,” she said.
Santiago, in previous interviews, pointed out three constitutional provisions that the agreement would violate:
1. “Foreign military bases, troops, or facilities, shall not be allowed in the Philippines, except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate. . . .” (Art. 18, Sec. 25)
2. “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.” (Art. 7, Sec. 21. Emphasis added.)
3. “The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.” (Art. 2, Sec. 8)
“The Agreement would set an extremely bad precedent. It would be a case of interpreting the Constitution to accommodate the military program of a foreign state. That eventuality defies all principles of constitutional supremacy,” Santiago said.
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