PH to stand by Edca—Yasay
LIMA, Peru — The Philippines will continue to honor its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States.
In a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders Meeting here, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said he communicated with US Secretary of State Rodrigo Duterte the assurance of President Duterte of the continuation of the Philippines’ defense cooperation with the United States.
“The President has assured America we will continue to respect our treaty agreement and the supporting agreements with respect to the Mutual Defense Treaty. We will continue with Edca,” Yasay said in a briefing for Filipino journalists after the Kerry meeting.
The country’s top diplomat met with his US counterpart, along with Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
In October, Duterte threatened to stop the implementation of Edca, saying it was under government review. The President also reminded the US government that it was just an executive agreement.
Signed in April 2014 under the Benigno Aquino III administration, Edca allows US troops access to military bases and camps in “agreed locations” in the Philippines.
Yasay clarified that Mr. Duterte “never said anything about discontinuing Edca.”
“In fact during his inaugural speech, he said he would continue to respect our Mutual Defense Treaty and other supporting documents, including Edca,” the official said.
What Duterte had stressed, however, was that the cooperation with the US would no longer be focusing on the area of “joint military exercises that would be demonstrative of preparing ourselves for any eventual attack from aggressors particularly China,” Yasay said.
As its relationship with China has improved for the better, in spite of the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, it may be time to do away with this “bias or mindset insofar as our military alliance with the US is concerned,” he said.
“So what we have told the United States is maybe we should tone down and not focus on these joint military exercises, which was a fundamental core of our mutual defense agreement but get into Edca where we would like to focus on exercises that are nontraditional,” he said.
These involve areas of cooperation such as building the country’s capacity against nontra
Yasay noted the upcoming visit of US Admiral Harry Harris, the new commander of the US Pacific Command, who was expected to discuss possible areas of joint cooperation with the Philippines.
“So I’m very happy America has looked at it correctly and has quite accepted the position we are taking and respects it,” he said.
“We will continue to engage ourselves with each other on these mutually beneficial joint exercises in line with their national interest in line with our national interests as well,” Yasay said. CDG
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