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No budget for Edca in 2015 budget—Gazmin

/ 03:43 PM September 09, 2014

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) will have to be stalled for now as no budget has been allotted for the defense agreement in the proposed 2015 National Budget, defense officials said on Monday.

During the budget briefing of the Department of National Defense (DND) in the House of Representatives, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said there is no appropriated budget for Edca in the 2015 National Expenditure Program.

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“There is no allotted budget for Edca,” Gazmin told lawmakers in response to the question raised by Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus, who was one of those who lodged an impeachment rap against President Aquino over Edca.

Defense Undersecretary Lorenzo Batino, who chaired the government negotiating panel in the agreement, said Edca would not be implemented yet due to pending petitions before the Supreme Court against the pact.

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Batino also said that the Philippines and the United States have yet to negotiate on the agreed locations.

Edca seeks to increase American forces’ presence in the country by establishing agreed locations for them to be based here despite a constitutional ban on foreign military bases.

Government had maintained that Edca only seeks to implement the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, and not to bring back US military bases.

“The DND will focus its efforts in preparing answers to the petitions brought before the SC… Until now, there are no formal negotiations between the Philippines and US on the agreed locations,” Batino said in Filipino.

The DND is proposing a P141.85-billion budget in 2015, or up 17 percent from the P121.36-billion budget in 2014.

Geographically, the bulk or P52.14 billion will be for the National Capital Region where its headquarters and major armed forces’ units are located.

Meanwhile, at least P20 billion were allotted for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Program. Also, at least P42.37 billion is allotted for the pensions of veterans and AFP pensioners.

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Below are the important provisions of Edca:

-It gives the United States access to “agreed locations,” mostly Philippine military facilities, for security cooperation exercises, joint training, etc.

-US forces may also use these locations for bunkering of vessels, refueling of aircraft, temporary accommodation of personnel, prepositioning of equipment and supplies, etc.

-The locations will be used by US forces without rental or similar costs. However, payment for the use of water, electricity and other public utilities will be shared “pro rata.”

-US will be allowed “operational control” of agreed locations. They may also make “alterations and improvements” to the facilities.

-US forces and US contractors “shall have unimpeded access to agreed locations” for the storage of defense equipment, supplies and prepositioned materiel. The Philippines will retain ownership of the locations.

-However, the US may use permanent buildings it has constructed until it is no longer required by its forces. The parties will agree on the terms of return of any of the agreed locations, including “possible compensation for improvements or construction.”

-Resolution of disputes on the Edca shall be resolved between the two countries. It “shall not be referred to any national or international court, tribunal, or other similar body, or to any third party for settlement, unless otherwise agreed by the Parties.”

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