THAT is, with the then senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s stance, as reported in a Senate press release of March 22, 2016, as follows:
“The next administration should revisit the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and [the] United States (US) to make sure the Philippines gets the best terms under the agreement.”
In a press conference in Olongapo City, Marcos said the fact that the agreement did not pass through the scrutiny of the Senate was enough reason why the deal should be reviewed by the next administration.
“I still maintain my position that the agreement should have been ratified by the Senate, but it was not submitted to us so we did not have any means to review it,” he said.
He said that while it would not be possible to rescind the deal at this point because its constitutionality had already been upheld by the Supreme Court, the deal should still be reviewed to make sure that we are not put at a disadvantage.
“Kailangan balikan iyan pero it is a signed deal already. Ngunit pwede pa naman natin balikan at tingnan ng mabuti ang operational effect nitong EDCA na kasama ng mga Amerikano,” he said.
He further stated that since the United States is an ally of the Philippines, it is highly possible that it would agree to review the deal and make clear some of the arrangements. “Pwede nating pag-usapan ito dahil kaibigan naman natin ang mga Amerikano to make sure we get the [best] possible deal for the Filipinos and while they provide protection and some form of security, hindi masyado maliwanag sa EDCA kung ano ito at iyan ang dapat pag-usapan,” he said.
Marcos also questioned certain provisions in the agreement that disallows access to Filipino personnel. He also cited the need to clarify the kind of equipment that will be used in the exercises and the facilities that will be built by the Americans.
“Bakit may mga areas na hindi allowed ang Philippine personnel? Anong equipment ang dadalhin kasi sinasabi ng ating pamahalaan na marami tayong makukuha na bagong equipment? Marami silang itatayong mga bagong building, so interesado ang lahat kung ano ang mga facilities na ‘yun at kung anong equipment na dadalhin nila dyan,” Marcos pointed out.
In addition, the senator stated, there is also a need to spell out the equipment that the Americans will leave behind as payment for the use of our bases. “Ano ang iiwan nila kasi hindi naman sila nagbabayad? Ano ‘yung mga exchanges of technology, exchanges of different training exercises ng ating military? Hindi pa maliwanag ‘yun,” he said.
Marcos was one of the senators who insisted that the EDCA should have been submitted to the Senate for ratification. The Supreme Court, voting 10-4, however, voted to uphold its constitutionality saying it was just an implementing agreement of existing treaties like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty.
But Marcos insisted that the EDCA was a treaty that should be ratified by the Senate as it not only increases the rotational presence of US military troops in the Philippines but opens the possibility of providing the Americans “basing rights in the country.”
Marcos in fact was steadfast in his stance that he questioned the motives of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, in making the EDCA an executive agreement without the Senate’s concurrence. A news article published Jan. 13, 2016 quoted him: “Nakapagtataka na ginawang executive agreement ito. Marahil dahil natatakot sila (executive branch) na hindi mapasa, hindi ma-ratify sa Senado (It’s perplexing why they made it an executive agreement. Maybe they are afraid this will not get ratified in the Senate),” the senator said in a statement.
“Ako, hindi nagbabago ang aking posisyon. Kasama ako sa committee ni Senator Miriam na nagsabi na kailangan dinaan sa ratification — ganoon pa rin ang aking posisyon (My position has not changed. I belong to Senator Miriam’s committee which reasoned that this should have been ratified — that’s still my position),” he said.
Marcos was referring to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who initiated the resolution. “I beg to disagree with the Supreme Court. I believe that this is in fact a treaty, and as an international treaty, it must be ratified by the Senate. That is our procedure, that is the way we in the Senate handle international treaties,’ the senator added.”
I wonder what changed the President’s mind, especially since his sister Sen. Maria Imelda Josefa R. Marcos (i.e., Imee) is the chairman of the foreign relations committee and could have led the review. He owes it to the nation to explain his volte face on this extremely important issue.
The EDCA and its expansion to allow US military forces to use nine military camps has been the most important pact entered into by our government with any foreign nation since the US-Philippines Military Bases Agreement concurred into by the Senate in 1947. That actually determined much of our post-war history.
We can’t blame our senators then: the country was desperate for US funds, as it had been ravaged so much both by US and Japanese forces during World War 2.
The US told our officials they could release the $400-million ($5.5 billion at todays’ prices) for the country’s rehabilitation only if the Senate approved the bases pact. (In sharp contrast, the Philippines gets zero dollars for the US’ use of our camps now, other than the Americans’ vague claim that the US presence in those camps will stimulate the local economy.)
And of course that was a time when the US was the sole superpower in our region. No more, with China in the past 30 years growing economically and militarily.
EDCA’s consequences will determine if this administration is praised or cursed. More importantly — and this is the reason why I have written many articles on this issue — EDCA will determine whether we finally become a Malaysia or a Myanmar by the end of Marcos’ term.
No matter how good-intentioned and intelligent he is, we cannot let one man — and his generals — make the sole decision affecting the lives of 114 million, especially since we cannot dismiss the possibility that EDCA could drag us into a war of two superpowers, which could even result in nuclear annihilation of the euphemistically termed “EDCA-designated locations.”
As Marcos advocated six years ago, let the Senate review EDCA. At least our future would be determined by 24 people we elected as we elect presidents, i.e., nationwide, and we would be better convinced in the debates there that China is really so bad we will risk our cities being nuked.
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