After 1991, the American Presence in the Philippines had diminished; the main culprit was the Philippine Senate rejecting a new treaty to allow US troops to remain. It’s probable that the Philippine government just didn’t see a need to keep their once imperial masters around—as there was no conflict in the foreseeable future.
But that’s now changed—the Philippines is now greatly concerned with China’s actions. As I’ve been writing, Beijing’s become more brazen in its control of the South China Seas; refusing Manila’s freedom of navigation to resupply its military, to attacking (with water cannons) Philippine fishing vessels, officially announcing its Nine-Dash-Line ownership boundary, and even saying the land is an integral part of Chinese sovereignty. (You can read my and my associate’s joint thoughts on our recently published op-ed “Dismounting China from the South China Sea”)
On Monday, 28 April 2014, the US Ambassador to the Philippines, the Honorable Philip Goldberg, and Philippines’ Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which will integrate US and Philippine Militaries for the next ten years. Some local protesters say this agreement is illegal, as the Philippine constitution (written in 1987) doesn’t allow for US troops to be based in the Philippines.
This is their complaint: Article XVIII (Transitory Provisions), Section 25, states: “After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”
And as you can see, the Defense Secretary Gazmin’s signature doesn’t equate to a treaty approved by the Senate. Secretary Gazmin would probable argue that this is not a treaty, and therefore American troops/equipment won’t be “based” in the Philippines, just there “temporarily” on a rotational basis. He would probably further claim that the EDCA is the first step in a new Philippine-United States Mutual Defense Treaty (which would require Senate approval).
Aside from “counter[ing] Chinese aggression in the region” (i.e. Maritime Security), EDCA was enacted to provide Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HADR) efforts and strengthen the Philippines Military. Some other articles had said that were the US Navy posted in the Philippines, their reaction time to provide HADR support would have been quicker. While the immediate response may be quicker, the supplies would still take time to deliver; with regards to Haiyan (which hit the Philippines on 8 November), the US’ response (CVN George Washington and escort ships) arrived on 14 November (6 days later). While six days seems “short”, when lives are at stake every hour really counts. Once the US Fleet arrived, they were able to provide water and food to those in need.
What is your opinion about this latest venture between US and the Philippines? Do you think its illegal? Do you think its the right thing to do…? Will China back down, or grow more aggressive?
Read about EDCA here
Philippines Constitution here
Other miscellaneous information here
US Navy’s Haiyan Relief Information here