American servicemen will not be allowed to build separate and distinct bases in the country but will “share” camps with the Philippine military, Malacañang said on Sunday.
“The proposed agreement will allow the sharing of defined areas within certain AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] facilities with elements of the US [United States] military on a rotational basis within parameters consistent with the Philippine Constitution and laws,” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
“They will not put up a military base,” he stressed.
Coloma echoed the statement of the Philippine panel led by Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino, who met with his US counterpart last week to hammer out the enhanced defense cooperation agreement.
“This fresh round has clearly shown the shared commitment of both parties to enhance cooperation in defense, security and related fields, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response. At the instance of the Philippine panel, the United States panel agreed to the inclusion of provisions on environment and safety, and opportunities for potential Philippine suppliers of goods, products and services,” Coloma said.
He said Batino was able to relay to US officials the government’s position emphasizing primacy of the Philippine Constitution, which bans the establishment of US bases in the country.
“Undersecretary Batino emphasized that, as in the preceding five rounds, the Philippine negotiating panel is guided by the principles of full respect for Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops, and no US basing in the Philippines, mutuality of benefits and respect for the Philippine Constitution, including the prohibition against nuclear weapons,” Coloma pointed out.
The quartering for US troops has yet to be discussed.
Coloma said the agreement will strengthen links between the two countries in terms of defense, security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
“The aspects of humanitarian assistance and disaster response are very important. We witnessed how the US government stood ready to help us in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda. They sent modern equipment and their participation in emergency response was huge,” the Palace official stressed.
Some senators allied with the administration on Sunday said they see no need for Senate concurrence on the enhanced defense cooperation agreement, but it would be better for Malacañang to brief the Senate first.
Sen. Sonny Angara, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the Senate, as an independent branch of the government, would also want to know the agreement’s specific provisions governing US troop presence in the country.
Angara said he agrees with Senate President Franklin Drilon that a briefing from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defense will enable lawmakers to determine if there is really no necessity for Senate concurrence.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma recently said the
Enhanced Defense Cooperation doesn’t need the approval of the Senate because it is just an offshoot of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Angara made it clear that he is not against the agreement but he insisted that the Senate will not readily accept Malacañang’s stance that the pact needs no ratification from the Senate.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th believes the pact is not a new treaty but a part of the VFA and MDT and as such does not require the Senate’s imprimatur.
“It is my understanding that there is no new concept being introduced in the new agreement,” Trillanes, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, told The Manila Times.
Those who question the legality of the agreement can always raise the matter with the Supreme Court.
Earlier, Sen. Miriam Santiago said the new agreement needs Senate concurrence because it is classified as a treaty, not an executive agreement.
She noted that the government cannot claim that the pact is an offshoot of an earlier agreement because allowing foreign troops and war equipment into the country is not “a minor case of details” but “a major subject in itself”.
Santiago, who heads the Senate foreign relations committee, said it would be better if Malacañang allows the Senate to review the contents of the agreement.
Like Santiago, Sen. Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito believes all treaties and agreement requires the Senate concurrence.