FORMER President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed and ratified the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, contrary to a claim by his successor, President Rodrigo Duterte.
Aquino signed the instrument of ratification of the EDCA on June 6, 2014, which states that “I, Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Republic of he Philippines, after having seen and considered the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States of America on Enhanced Defense Cooperation, do hereby ratify and confirm the same and each and every article and clause thereof.”
A copy of the document was provided by a diplomat to The Manila Times.
Duterte, who has stepped up his tirades against the US following Washington’s criticism of his bloody war on drugs, on Sunday warned he would review the EDCA and end joint military exercises between Filipino and US troops.
The President claimed the document did not bear Aquino’s signature, and was instead signed by former Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin and an “aide” in 2014.
The EDCA allows the rotational presence of US troops in agreed locations inside Philippine military bases, for training and related activities such as transit and refueling.
In January, the Supreme Court declared the EDCA constitutional. The pact did not need Senate ratification as it is an executive agreement that implements the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
The diplomat noted that the Supreme Court decision acknowledged Aquino’s ratification of the EDCA.
“[P]onente Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno took note of the ratification when she stated: ‘After eight rounds of negotiations, the Secretary of National Defense and the US Ambassador to the Philippines signed the agreement on April 28, 2014. President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd ratified EDCA on June 6, 2014,’” said the diplomat, who asked not to be named because of lack of authority to speak on the matter.The diplomat also invoked Article 12 of the EDCA, which reads: “This Agreement shall have an initial term of ten years, and thereafter, it shall continue in force automatically unless terminated by either Party by giving one year’s written notice through diplomatic channels of its intention to terminate this Agreement.”
“Therefore, EDCA has a guaranteed term of 10 years, after which it may be terminated by either party by giving a one-year advance notice of the intent to terminate,” the diplomat added.
The diplomat also noted that then President Aquino authorized Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to sign the EDCA on April 28, 2014, in the same way US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg had full authority to sign on behalf of US President Barack Obama, under Article 4 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
The diplomat also pointed out that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty was signed by Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos P. Romulo and US Secretary of State Dean Acheson.
The Visiting Forces Agreement was signed by Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon and US Ambassador Thomas Hubbard.
“It is not legally necessary or customary these days for heads of government to personally sign agreements. Cabinet officials or senior officials can sign for him, provided the President issues full powers to the signing official, pursuant to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,” the diplomat said.
Malacañang on Tuesday said the government, through the Mutual Defense Board, would review EDCA and other defense agreements with the US, particularly those involving military exercises, by the end of October.
The review was discussed in passing during a Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a radio interview.
But Andanar said President Duterte won’t abrogate the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and would maintain the country’s military alliance with the US.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the military was aware of Duterte’s comments.
But “it hasn’t really so much translated into tangible actions that we’ve seen with regards to our actions under the alliance,” he said.
“In as much as our alliance with the Philippines is concerned, it’s very much solid and stable and secure and on track,” he added, pointing to continued cooperation in military exercises and assistance with counter-terrorism operations in the southern Philippines.
The US Embassy in Manila urged the Philippines on Tuesday to live up to previous agreements.
“We will continue to honor our alliance commitments, and we expect the Philippines to do the same,” embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina told AFP.
Philippine Defense department spokesman Arsenio Andolong told AFP on Monday the military relationship with the US “has not changed as of today.”