FIRST, let us state that we feel the pain of seeing our country remain overly dependent on our former colonizer the United States of America, until now, 70 years after we regained our independence.
We feel the anger of the letter- and comment-writers we have published today on P6. But we do also see the logic of those who have written in praise of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the Supreme Court’s decision to declare it constitutional and okay to implement — without need of the Senate’s concurrence — because it is only an executive agreement.
Let us not mince words in describing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
This agreement is our country’s fitting and necessary response to China’s relentless expansionism in the South China (West Philippine) Sea, which has included the occupation of our reefs and tiny islets. The EDCA will help facilitate and accelerate the modernization of our armed forces, at a crucial time when the backwardness of our military has been mercilessly exposed by China’s aggressive building of islands, airstrips and ports on the SCS/WPS. We cannot pretend that Chinese patrols have bullied our fishermen–taking away their livelihood –and bullied as well our naval and Coast Guard patrols–taking away their self-respect and dignity
Now, with the judicious buildup of national capabilities, with matching funds from both the Philippine budget and US military assistance, the Philippines should develop, in time, sufficient credibility in meeting incursions into our possessions and in our exclusive 200-mile zone in the West Philippine Sea.
US politicians and media, abetted by locals, are today having a field day in crowing that after booting out the US military 25 years ago, the Philippiness is now imploring US forces to return, because of Filipino fears and suspicion of China.
This is a simplication of a complex agreement, which is important to both countries. It will pave the way for American forces to deploy to an array of bases throughout the country. It will help stiffen the nation’s back.
The deal no doubt represents a big boost for the Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia and reflects a broader trend in the region as China’s smaller neighbors seek to push back against Beijing’s claims in the South China (West Philippine) Sea. Our government justifiably fears that Beijing will seize control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal after repeated clashes with Chinese coast guard vessels over fishing rights. We see the American military as a powerful ally that can help us counter China.
Ideally, EDCA will serve as a deterrent to Beijing and “help convince the Chinese that pressuring their neighbors into giving up their territorial claims is actually not in China’s interest.”
In lifting the legal challenge to the accord, the SC ruled that the pact did not amount to a treaty that would need approval from the Philippine Senate and instead could stand as an “executive agreement” under the authority of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
For now, let us just say that this agreement will benefit both countries and allow US forces to rotate through the country on temporary deployments. But the accord in no way “provides for permanent US bases in the Philippines.”
Still, some or many of our people will not be pleased with EDCA. They will say that it violates the Constitution. And that it will expose us to the threat of Chinese attack. Even nuclear attack. We have no such fears. For China and its leaders will avoid a shooting war with anybody, specially with us Filipinos, for they know we will eventually become its very close ally and partner. And they will not want to be in a true military conflict with the USA. In fact there is a big push in China for Beijing and Washington to become military allies and partners, for the best thing for the globe is for China and the America to become the two superpowers to provide leadership to the world.
China for its part, for propaganda purposes. will insist on describing the accord as a threat to peace in the South China (West Philippine) Sea.
But some like us will also say that Chinese expansionism in the SCS/WPS is what inevitably led us to this pass, pushing our diplomacy and statecraft toward this defense cooperation agreement with the US. And toward the modernization–at last– of our nation’s armed forces.
We were pushed by strategic considerations into this policy of national defense and security. It’s about time we Filipinos think seriously and earnestly about our defense and security. The next administration must take this issue forward.