Under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) signed on Monday by the Philippine and US governments, Washington will not automatically come to the aid of Manila if it is being attacked, for example, by China, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said.
“In case of conflict, the US will come to the defense of the Philippines, only if it serves the interest of the US. If not, the US will finesse the situation and in that sense would be unreliable,” Santiago said on Monday.
Even under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between Manila and Washington, she added, the US will only come to the aid of the Philippines only after issues have passed through US constitutional processes, particularly open-ended debates in the US Congress.
But if China reaches out to Russia while the Ukraine issue continues to simmer, Santiago said, the US will certainly call on the Philippines to fulfill its MDT obligations.
Edca, she added, would effectively make the country a satellite ally of the US.
Santiago said the new agreement, regardless of its contents, will antagonize China further because it would mean that the Philippines has agreed to be listed under the column of America instead of China.
She was expressing her dismay over the signing of the enhanced defense pact, a move that she described as an “unfair surprise” on the Philippine Senate.
Santiago said the Senate should first ratify Edca before it becomes binding because it is a treaty, not a simple agreement.
Santiago, the chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, insisted that the Senate, under the Constitution, shares the treaty-making power with the President of the Philippines and an agreement such as Edca should be first submitted for concurrence of the Senate.
“The use of guile in diplomacy should be limited to state-to-state situations, and should not include a situation involving only two branches of the same government,” Santiago said in a statement.
She, however, noted that the agreement is not yet final and that she expects militant groups to bring the issue to the Supreme Court.
Santiago, an international law expert, said the government has not allowed the Senate to look at the agreement.
“The Senate has not been given the courtesy of being furnished with a copy. I feel as if I have been slapped, or ordered to melt into the wallpaper,” she added.
Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th and Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, however, said also on Monday that Senate concurrence was not needed in order to make the agreement binding.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg signed Edca early Monday morning in simple ceremonies that lasted 30 minutes at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
In their speeches, Goldberg and Gazmin said Edca is anchored on the MDT and the Visiting Forces Agreement with full respect for the Philippine Constitution and other existing laws.
The agreement, according to Goldberg, is based on a number of key principles and shared values, a commitment to democratic governance and international law, the mutuality of benefits for both nations and respect for Philippine sovereignty.
It will allow increased rotational presence of American forces in the country, support the long term modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and help it maintain and develop additional maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities, he said.
Goldberg added that Edca will not reopen any US base or establish permanent US military presence in the country.
Gazmin said the agreement not only manifests deepened relationship between the Philippines and the Untied States but also serves as a framework for furthering the alliance between the two countries.
China however bristled at the new defense agreement. A dispatch carried by the official Xinhua news agency said the deal could “embolden Manila in dealing with Beijing.”
“The Aquino administration has made its intention clear: to confront China with US backing,” it said.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the agreement will boost the Philippines’ maritime defense capability in light of threats it faces over disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and affirms “the robust and enduring strategic partnership between the two countries.”
Manila and Beijing are bitterly contesting resource-rich territories in the South China Sea.
The new agreement “also builds capacity for more effective disaster relief and rehabilitation response,” Coloma said.
In general, he added, the agreement will contribute to regional stability.
Edca “marks a milestone in shared history [of the Philippines and the US]as enduring treaty allies,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario said also on Monday.
It “elevates to higher plane of engagement our already robust alliance with US. It is a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. It opens up fresh avenues for bilateral cooperation, “ del Rosario added.
With reports from Joel M. Sy Egco And Candice Brillon and AFP