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Aquino defends Edca

04:46 AM November 20, 2014
benigno aquino

President Benigno Aquino III. AP FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE—President Aquino has reiterated the Philippines’ need for increased defense cooperation with the United States through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) which he insisted was drawn up in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

“Our country needs this kind of agreement, which is just an addition to earlier agreements like the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” he told a press briefing here on Tuesday night.

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Aquino was asked about the legality of the Philippine-US agreement because of the oral arguments earlier that day at the Supreme Court in connection with the two petitions questioning the Edca for being allegedly in violation of the Constitution and accusing the President of compromising national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But at the time of the media briefing, the President had yet to be briefed about the discussions during the oral arguments as he had a full first day of a two-day working visit here.

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During the four-hour oral arguments at the high court on Tuesday, several magistrates hinted that the high court may not be the proper forum to debate on the provisions of Edca and suggested referring the matter to the Senate, the treaty-ratifying body.

“We just refined those agreements (the MDT and VFA). So if those two agreements are legal and this (Edca) is just a clarification of the details those agreements, why should that be contradictory?” Mr. Aquino said.

The President said he had spoken with two of the petitioners—former senators he said he’d rather not name—and had successfully brought them back to agreeing with government’s position on the Edca.

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“They are our allies and it seemed that we had different positions. But we got to talk and it feels good that we now have the same perspective,” he said.

According to Aquino, the two said they wished they had talked with the President before the petitions were submitted to the Supreme Court. As it is, they had to go through with the petitions, he said.

He did not identify the two petitioners, except to say that both were former senators.

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“If I say specifically who they are, you will interview them, and these two are already quite old. They might say… they might not welcome too much attention,” he said.

Signed just hours before US President Barack Obama’s visit to Manila last April, Edca allows greater US military access to the country’s bases facilities. The United States is the Philippines’ closest defense ally.

Those opposed to Edca believe the agreement violates the constitutional provisions banning nuclear weapons and disallowing the establishment of foreign military bases in the country without Senate approval.

The petitioners against Edca include former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, who were among the 12 senators who voted to kick out US military bases from the country in 1991, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), lawyers and representatives from the religious and the academe.

At the Senate, Sen. Francis Escudero said Wednesday the treaty-making chamber can only concur with the Edca if Malacañang submits it as a treaty.

Since the Palace submitted Edca as an executive agreement, it cannot be compelled to submit this to the Senate for ratification, he said.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), Military, Philippines, US
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